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Social Distancing and Architectural Practice In The Time of Covid-19

UPDATED 8/10/20: The pandemic continues. We are still encouraged to stay home, maintain at least 6 foot distance between us, wear masks, and wash our hands often.

In an effort to maintain the health of my clients, consultants, family, and myself, I have adopted socially distant and remote work practices. Video conferences replace face-to-face meetings as much as possible. I am still making site visits, normally when nobody is present on the site, but if they are, we keep distant and wear masks.

I am taking on new work. Video conferencing, phone calls, and email are all very effective means of communication. I am using experienced sub-consultants to measure buildings and prepare base drawings for me. They wear masks and gloves when measuring and do everything they can reasonably do to minimize return visits.

It is important to maintain these measures to ensure that the infection and death rates plateau and drop before the economy reopens.

I am looking at how this is changing my practice in the long term. For now, I will continue working on current projects, and offering Virtual Design Counseling for those that want to explore building or remodeling in the near future.

The Costco shelves have been stripped of toilet paper and pasta. The Target is out of canned and frozen veggies. Schools are closed. You may have been asked to work from home.

What is your architect doing? How is work getting done?

I can’t speak for all architects, but this is how my boutique architectural studio is functioning in the time of Covid-19: we are implementing practical measures to ensure our own health, and the health of our clients and consultants.

How are we doing that?

We are doing that by instituting Social distancing and making the studio as much of a “virtual” studio as we can.

How do we make our studio as “virtual” a studio as we can?

That means Hunkering Down

We are hunkering down in our office space, and working on our clients’ projects. We are doing our utmost to stay in our office while also providing the kind of service our clients need.

That means using email and video conferencing

I am a major email guy anyway. I prefer it to phone calls for many things. It gives me a record of our conversations, and it provides me an opportunity to give my communication some thought. We can share PDF and other types of files. We can also use DropBox to share bigger files.

Phone calls still work of course. I prefer if we can schedule calls in advance so that we can be as efficient as possible.

Video conferencing is a very effective way to meet with one or more other people. Once a day and time has been determined, I set up the meeting and make sure everybody gets an email invitation to the conference. (I use Zoom.us for video calls and conferences.) We can chat and share screens, and the conference can be recorded.

That means remote workers

For the last 5 years or so, I have been using a drafting service to provide drafting support in the various software programs I use – Chief Architect, AutoCad, Revit. Note: the only program I have on my machine is Chief Architect. But I use the others via the remote workers.

During this time of heightened concern about infectious disease, using remote workers from a drafting service means that I will not be confronted with ill employees who have to stay home for two weeks. The drafting service has workers all over the world and can, at the moment, continue providing services during this pandemic.

This means postponing some kinds of work

I will have to postpone some in person work in order to ensure the health of all concerned.

I am providing the initial design meeting virtually. I am using an experienced sub-consultant to field measure your house. For your safety and for mine, our meetings will be virtual as well.

This, too, shall pass.

These are my working principals during the pandemic.

Remember, this is a temporary situation. Things will return to normal, and life will go on much as it has. I am confident that all of our normal lives will resume.

We will return to our offices. Our kids will return to their schools. There will be toilet paper at Costco and frozen veggies at Target.

But I may keep using the video conferencing, because it saves me a ton of time driving around the Bay Area to attend meetings.

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