First off, let’s understand what commercial construction trends occurred during COVID, and then discover how they’ve changed since. What defined commercial interior construction over the last couple years for COVID was items such as: Reduced overall regular usage of office space, Emphasis on video conferencing, Reduced meeting room needs, Focus on remote working, In-office and in-store plexiglass dividers, Alternating or hybrid models on employees working from home and office, Emphasis on employee health needs, Reduced work long-distance travel, Increase in space allotted for in-office employee personal space, and overall employee separation from others.
Yet as the U.S. business world returns more and more to a semblance of “normal,” many businesses have attributed years of the above to a loss of productivity and revenue. This has resulted in more and more employees returning to the office at employers’ preferences. These business moves have created construction needs for many fit-outs. A fit-out is a term in commercial construction meaning to update building areas for growing occupants’ spacial needs, or to expand commercial building space based on landlords’ or future tenants’ requirements.
In addition to employees returning to the office, there have been hiring booms – all increasing the needs for commercial construction fit-outs in the post-COVID work world. We might have expected the plexiglass divisions to come down from offices – but many have remained. But that’s not the only carry-over from the COVID era – these items represent commercial building trends now – some have been retained and some are new:
- Continued emphasis on employee health and safety. This is still valued among businesses today – especially as they compete with each other to attract new hires.
- Overall working flexibility. The flexibility of the 21st century co-working space continues to be valued among businesses and staff alike. It is the trend that keeps going. It has become a model for office spaces to copy for their own work structures – to keep employees happy and draw new recruits.
- Elimination of toxic interior materials. Asbestos is not the only toxic material used in the past for buildings – it’s just the most notorious. However these days there is the recognition that certain building materials can have negative health effects on long-term employees – and there are efforts to replace these with safer construction materials in building retrofits.
- Environmental focus. Of course environmentalism is a movement that continues to draw support – even in the workplace. Office workers are concerned about the sustainability of the materials used in the building of their workplaces. So contractors continue to offer more and more sustainability options in their construction.
- Overall personal space. Increased worker space and separation has continued to be a COVID and post-COVID priority.
- Advancement in construction materials. Of course construction materials in general continue to advance with time and technology. Examples include modular construction and pre-fabricated materials – items planned to be built off-site and shipped and finished on the building itself. This reduces labor costs and space needs on the job site.
- Software and data tech. Building information modeling software (BIM) and “connected construction” have been growing and aiding the construction industry tremendously. Connected construction does what it says it does – it connects all the various technologies and data builders use to do their job.
- Supply chain adaptation. Of course we’re all aware that supply chain issues have caused big problems in business and industry over the last couple years. Materials shortages – shipping delays – these are issues which construction project managers have had to deal with on a daily basis. Adaptation – with the help of technology – is critical, and will continue to be so.
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