The post-pandemic architecture of physical spaces

A  space used to be just a space. But now more than ever, because of the pandemic, real estate is more connected to people’s health and wellbeing. A space with certain attributes is more attractive to buyers compared to properties or developments without these characteristics. For example, green developments enjoy attributes that are appreciated more and more by today’s real estate market.

As people’s tastes and preferences change, so do their behavior and habits. COVID-19 is likewise leaving a legacy of changed cities, public and commercial spaces, and residences. I would divide these pandemic-related changes that affect architecture and human developments in three main categories: digitalization, transportation, and residential and public spaces.

Digital innovations are creating a huge impact on the way cities and public spaces are being designed, developed, and used by people. For example, in cities like Amsterdam, citizens can use an app to check in real-time which public areas are crowded or congested so they can avoid these spots. Technology already allows us to choose the easiest route to our destination, and I do believe that there will be more digital innovations to help us better handle our time in many ways.

Transportation is changing at a fast rate, mainly because of the reduced mobility required for remote working. On top of that, new trends include the popular use of bicycles and electric scooters, walking, etc. as an alternative means to travel. It’s one of the positive effects of the pandemic, which helps to lessen traffic and pollution and allows us to save both time and money.

All around the world, real estate products located in less congested areas and developed according to green building principles have seen an increase in value. These are developments and properties with more open areas, easy access to outdoor spaces like terraces, gardens, etc., and with residential units that have abundant natural lighting and ventilation. The market quickly realized that being in a green environment is part of living a healthy life.

Our outdoor activities are changing, too. People are starting to appreciate outdoor commercial spaces, al fresco dining, and open public spaces like parks, plazas, and squares. When I arrived in the Philippines many years ago, I noticed that unlike the citizens of Europe and even the US to some extent, the Filipinos were not in the habit of dining al fresco even while the local weather is often nice and conducive to this activity. So I think it’s a healthy decision to be more open to it now, and I hope that the practice lasts beyond the pandemic.

The Philippines, like the rest of the world, is aligned with trends in transportation, aggressive digitalization, and the use of public spaces. Local real estate clients are more interested in green developments, specifically those outside congested areas like city centers. The market has a new appreciation for locations that can be reached easily via new highways and roads, condominiums with open spaces and easy access to outdoor facilities, and developments that use natural ventilation, natural lighting, and sustainable energy sources.

So while it is true that only people can change society, we can see that architecture and design are gradually evolving alongside the social changes to fit our new circumstances and to deliver meaningful and transformative developments for the people.

* * *

I, together with Royal Cargo’s Michael Raeuber, was a recent guest in Focus Philippines’ “Leadership Challenges”, a program hosted by Regina Lay, who is a prominent journalist, former chief editor of Bloomberg TV, and now business news editor of Cignal TV. Michael Raeuber and I talked about our reasons for moving to the Philippines, the challenges we encountered in the early years of our stay here, the difficulties related to starting a business and finding investors, and how our respective companies continue to manage and overcome the challenges being posed by the pandemic. You can find the video recording of our interview on Focus Philippines’ YouTube channel and Facebook page.

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