An intelligent lockdown

by Victor Frequin

Director of OZ architects

The Corona virus not only changes our way of life, also the way we work. The present intelligent lockdown replaces our indispensable meetings by more telephone calls, more apps and especially more MS Teams and Zoom. How efficient are we: no commuting, no travelling, digital communications! We save time that we can spend educating our children at home and relax, not to mention the time we spend on humorous apps and videos. However, the main thing is that doing so we can continue our work.

Because that is what an intelligent lockdown is supposed to do. Many companies cannot work at all; being in the travel industry, in hotels, restaurants, bars and leisure business means more or less a total shutdown, no turnover etc. In addition, many manufacturing and retail companies have stopped or slowed down their business. However, we are relieved we have the option to work!

Of course, also architects suffer because of a strong downfall of projects. A recent survey of the BNA shows a wide variety of results. 87% of the Dutch architect firms expects a lower turnover during March and April of an average of 20%, on a longer term even minus 30%. The corona crisis affects almost everyone.

During many years, we work using the computers, using the 3D techniques. Seeing an architect firm is seeing people behind screens and using creative and technical expertise together with software skills. This crisis teaches us to accelerate also the way we use the digital techniques for communications.

So, as many have said, never waste a good crisis. We know, because the financial and real estate crisis we have had was not long ago. That crisis brought down the total turnover of the architect business in The Netherlands to some 50%, as did our number of employees. In the last years, we came back as a whole, but not yet to the level of before that period. We know how important it is to keep on working, to continue in the best possible way to serve our clients and serve the building and real estate industry.

In order to keep on going, we have to emphasize to our real estate clients and our government the necessity to continue development processes; do not delay this when this is not necessary. Do not use working at home as an excuse to slow down. We all know that development processes take time. However, we also know that the basic demand for housing, offices, hotels etc is not going down. On the contrary, there is a strong need for real estate products. So let us both keep on pushing the processes and use all techniques to pursue.

In addition, keep on paying! A crisis may stimulate people to postpone payments in order to improve their liquidity. As a whole, this leads to disaster, everyone needs liquidity. Delaying payments is almost criminal as many architect firms are mainly financed by their owners and only to a limited extent by banks. Let us repeat that a payment term of 30 days after invoicing is normal, 60 days is a common practice for too many clients, and a substantial part is taking even longer.

Let us agree that an intelligent lockdown does not mean delay the work and delay the payments. Let us work together to bridge the present crisis and create beautiful and efficient buildings.