Ben Kasdan – What CRE Will Look Like As America Reopens

National Real Estate Investor

May 4, 2020

Even after the worst stage of the COVID-19 pandemic ends, how we use physical spaces will be transformed for the foreseeable future.

The United States has had more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a death count approaching 70,000, as of Monday. And new reporting from the New York Times revealed that the Trump administration is “privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1 […] nearly double from the current level of about 1,750.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, is forecasting “about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now,” according to the Times.

So while some cities and states have begun to relax “stay at home” orders in recent days, those numbers shed doubt on whether the U.S. as a whole is on a steady path toward reopening yet.

Still, at some point the worst of the pandemic will subside. When it does, we will not be returning to the same world as prior to the pandemic. That’s sparked many discussions in the commercial real estate industry as to what a post-COVID-19 world will look like and what that will mean for the various sub-sectors in the industry. How we use buildings will change. That means layouts, density and uses will have to evolve in order to allow for people to safely come back. As just one example, restaurants will not be able to squeeze tables as tightly together as they did previously. Not many people will be willing to eat meals while rubbing elbows with fellow diners as we used to.

There will be universal changes. Temperature checks might become the norm to enter any business. Masks could be required for a while. Hours of operation may be altered to allow for staggering the workday to reduce density.

In other ways, though, it’s not so much a reimagination of commercial real estate, but an acceleration of trends that had already begun to emerge.

“While the pandemic and its associated stay-at-home orders have suddenly and unexpectedly interrupted all of our lives, many of the architectural design impacts that will ‘result from’ the pandemic were actually already growing trends for contemporary residential design,” says Benjamin Kasdan, AIA, LEED AP, principal, KTGY Architecture + Planning. “In particular, we expect the emphasis on building healthy communities to continue to gain momentum as a result of this shared experience, as will a renewed interest in self-reliant design strategies and resilience.”

In a previous gallery we explored which sectors might emerge as the winners and losers as a result of the pandemic. In the following gallery we’ve put together insights from some commercial real estate pros, including comments from several members of JLL’s corporate solutions team. We’ve also curated links from reports and other sources to round out the observations.

In addition to the specificities dictated by each property type, there might also be some universal changes, such as an increased premium placed on cleaning and hygiene.

“All of the sustainability certification systems–including LEED and WELL–prioritize indoor air quality for the health of the occupants of buildings, but reducing air filter quality was a common strategy in non-certified projects for saving construction costs because most people would not notice or care about the difference. In the post-COVID-19 world, the quality of the air that we breathe in our homes matters, even if we cannot physically see or feel it,” Kasdan says.

This slideshow is an exploration of how various property types could look and how we will use them in the months and years ahead as the age of COVID-19 unfolds.