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Will Covid-19 be an opportunity for commercial construction?

While there's no denying the pandemic lockdown has had a serious impact on the commercial construction sector, could Covid-19 be a catalyst for evolution and change? Analysts believe London will bounce back as it has done before, but this time with a new resilience.

The future of the high street

High streets across the land have been hard hit by lockdown. But in London developers are recycling cash from mature assets into new and exciting developments that create even greater value for shareholders. Oxford Street may have seen some high profile failures, but the scarcity of West End space means it will quickly adapt.

Projects like Lucent W1 underlines the current commitment to forward thinking. The 140,000 sq ft development behind the iconic Piccadilly Lights will house office and retail space. The wealth of outdoor space and natural light deliver on things that many consumers and employees have come to value during lockdown.

What's happening is a change in outlook that is critical if the high street is to survive, and a realisation that retail spaces must be radically repurposed in the face of the dominance of e-commerce.

The experience of physical retail must therefore offer something that cannot be matched online. Premium stores largely survived the pandemic because of their uniqueness. Other businesses will have to think hard about how they retailor and reimagine the space at their disposal.

The sustainable office

The death of the office is premature, analysts agree. And there are definitely reasons, some believe, why premium office space will deliver what employees need after lockdown eases. What will be critical, however, is that office space in the 'new normal' is sustainable and delivers on the green agenda that is increasingly important to employers and employees.

The Forge in Southwark is spearheading the move towards greener construction, using the P-DfMA (Platform for Design, Manufacture and Assembly) platform system to become the UK's first net-zero carbon office building.

 

Providing 139,000 sq ft of office space, the Forge relies on off-site construction which has become increasingly prevalent in residential construction over recent years. Firms including ilke Homes and Top Hat have received substantial government and private finance.

 

Precision engineering off-site reduces waste, reduces errors and enables greater cost certainty. Factor in reduced delivery times and investors can generate a profit more quickly while creating efficiency across the supply chain.

The future of the landlord-tenant relationship

One additional factor impacting commercial construction will be the changing face of the landlord-tenant relationship.

With the government willing to intervene if relationships break down and threaten jobs and livelihood, enlightened landlords are realising that their role has changed. That they provide a service and therefore need to work with their tenants in a collaborative way.

Landlords who work together with their tenants to build deep and strategic relationships, will find a way through the crisis and emerge stronger at the end of it.

What seems immediately clear is that London will remain a hotbed of activity, and one that's better prepared to face the challenges of the future.

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