Vishal Kakkar, Business Head and Partner, Envisage

With more than 19 years of experience, Vishal has been instrumental in developing Envisage as a force to reckon with in the field of architecture, interiors, and design and build. He began his career leading project executions and managing multiple projects across typologies such as residential, corporate, and institutional designs. During the course of his career, Vishal’s interests advanced into the functioning of this industry beyond design and staying informed and ahead of industry trends.

 

The spread of COVID-19 has been all about uncertainty and distress. With people being strongly advised to follow social distancing protocols, the government has focused on controlling the spread of illness by restricting travel and work. This has impacted every industry, including the architecture, construction and real estate ones. The use of technology and computers has become prevalent within our personal and working lives; organizations are quickly changing to succeed and compete against those that are born digital. Workplaces are no longer seen as physical office spaces, but a digitally connected workforce with the ability to work and communicate from any location at any time.

The digital workplace can be described as an organization that provides its workforce with the technology and environment to communicate, innovate, collaborate and work more effectively to achieve their business objectives. There are three aspects to this change that come as an advantage to the industry-

Safety

With a massive reduction in face to face meetings, discussions and collaborations, the exposure to the virus reduces tremendously. Virtual and real-time facilities have made numerous aspects such as labour management and site supervision convenient. Usually, when an architect visits a site, it involves an interaction with approximately 15 people, including labour, supervisors, clients, vendors etc. This makes everyone prone to the virus, hence increasing the risk. Now, everything happens virtually over platforms like Zoom and Google Meet, thereby reducing exposure and enabling smoother communication.

Convenience

Every time a client or a contractor visits the architect, a set of drawings has to be kept ready for ease in explanation, presentation and communication. With a significant advantage of cloud computing- every drawing and detail is available under one database and holds a range of people in the loop. This also assures complete transparency, saves time and allows for convenience in communication. Real-time inventory management- sites in the construction industry, has become easy to control and administrate with the advantage of Augmented reality and virtual reality, whilst promoting safer working environments.

Acceptance

Advancements in technology existed even before the pandemic, but were restricted to particular industries. As the pandemic surfaced, everyone was forced to rely on technology and discovered how helpful it could be in professional working. The AEC industry has struggled to keep up with various aspects such as qualified worker shortage, growing competition, shrinking margins, higher risks and health and safety advisories. All these aspects affect the growth of a project in various ways. To complete the project safely, in time, and profitably- technology and its acceptance have played a key role. Advancements such as BIM have made it very convenient for planning and coordinating a project. 3D printing has also become an opportunity to help convey designs and construction drawings conveniently.

Disadvantages

Adjustments

Various people in the construction fraternity are accustomed to working and monitoring developments on the field. The introduction of technology has opened a new field of work mode for them, which could be intimidating. Felid workers have to rely on virtual reality, and various project management software and this mix can lead to resistance. However, this perception is slowly changing and can be leveraged to attain and generate skilled labour.

Cybersecurity Concerns and Loss of Data

Even with the most updated protections such as firewalls and appropriate software, a business is still subject to the potential loss of data in case of hard drive crashes and limited information back up. In such scenarios, the business is left trying to rebuild a database rather than concentrating all the energy on design and management works.

The increase in technology dependence has also led to the rise in cybercrime wherein various aspects such as emails, financial records, employee information etc. can be leaked. Thus, the company needs to have a cybersecurity plan. It is crucial to educate employees about security methods to mitigate risks.

Maintaining a human balance

A reduction in personal and human interaction leads to an absence of a dynamic mix of thoughts and strategic exchange of ideas. The digital experience should be tailored to the needs of users and be flexible enough to accommodate their different levels of digital skills. The digital workplace can complement human interaction and make it easier for peers to interact and integrate. Businesses need to understand what is the best communications channel for them, depending on the employee or business issue. Therefore, creating a strategy that offers both a digital and human method of interaction can strike a balance between the two.

Digital readiness and an optimistic approach to working can help the construction industry advance in various ways, while saving time, effort, and energy, thereby leading to steady execution of projects even amidst the pandemic.

Related Articles