Global Real Estate Leader Discusses Covid-19 Impact On Design And Commercial Industry

Jack Paruta is the senior project architect with Gensler; one of the largest architecture, design, and consulting firms in the real estate industry.

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Covid-19 has had an immense impact on many industries throughout the world, real estate being no different. In the beginning of the pandemic, real estate workers, architects, designers, and more were worried about how they would be able to continue in their developing projects in the middle of a global health crisis. As the months progressed and more states started entering the phase of their lockdown which allowed construction and architect work to resume, the industry regained some hope. However, the future was, and still is, unclear in regard to how the rest of the pandemic will impact the industry. 

Jack Paruta has over 25 years of experience as a project architect. He specializes in hospitality design that covers a wide variety of projects, but he’s mainly known for his work refurbishing and redesigning historic buildings. He currently works for Gensler, the global architecture, design, and planning firm. The firm has 50 locations all across the world, so different industry leaders working for the company have had to make a variety of decisions regarding the pandemic in their part of the world. 

Paruta is mainly based in New York, and recently was interviewed with other real estate leaders on Covid-19’s impact on the industry. He claimed when the pandemic first began the firm really shifted their focus on the offices in China and how they were initially coping with the situation. All 50 offices around the world have been impacted in one way or another, and after enduring the pandemic for over 6 months now, Paruta claims the company’s goals have greatly shifted. 

“Our research has shifted gears to focus wholeheartedly on COVID-19, in an effort to help our clients through this difficult time.”

Different offices throughout the world are coping with the pandemic based on their countries specific case status. Paruta stated that their offices in Asia are working at a partial office occupancy, as most office building environments in Asia are. In almost every other part of the world workers are remaining at home and have different timelines of when they’ll return to in-office work based on their region. 

Paruta claims a lot of the employees he works with personally, and have talked with internationally, have been able to retain a strong real estate presence in their specific sectors, and have been able to remain extremely productive working from home. He said video conferencing and other platforms that allow for digital collaborations have helped the team stay strong and remain diligent with their work. That same technology has also made talking with clients much easier. 

Paruta then went on to discuss how before the pandemic took over, his firm, along with many others throughout the world, have been shifting their focus to implement more energy efficient and sustainable technologies in future projects. He claims that the pandemic has only further motivated him and his employees to continue down this path. 

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“Sustainability and COVID-19 are linked, we’ve seen that the pandemic has lessened our carbon footprint as the world’s buildings that contribute a large percentage of emissions have less demand for energy, since we’re not occupying them as much.”

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Once this pandemic does come to an end, Paruta says a big focus for him will be on “the configuration and layouts of office buildings.” He’s aware that in a post-Covid world there’s going to be a major need for new spread out office layouts. Gensler is currently working on reevaluating recently completed projects and how they can go back in to better accommodate for social distancing, as well as reworking projects that have been in motion, but put on pause, within the past few months. 

They want to put a focus on using stairwells for those who are physically capable more than elevators so that they’re reserved for individuals who actually need them, and thus, used much less. When it comes to his work on refurbishing and redesigning historical buildings, Paruta claims that these spaces already always have a certain set of limitations, so making adjustments based on the pandemic is much easier when compared to reworking the layout of an entire office building. 

In terms of the hospitality sector of Gensler, Purata believes everything is going to start becoming much more digitized. “Everything will lean toward a touchless experience, including access, check-in and in-room operations. We are seeing an emphasis on adding signage to communicate policies and procedures, particularly with respect to cleaning.” Gensler specifically will be designing lobbies and public spaces within the hotels to be easily cleaned and open. 

As of right now, Purata is aware that it’s too soon to tell when the future of his industry will actually look like in terms of resuming and completing major architectural projects, however, he’s hopeful that as the pandemic comes to an end, all industries will be able to bounce back in one way or another.