2021 Industry Predictions: Architects and Engineers

By Darren S. Black, J.D., Senior Managing Director, National Practice Leader, Professional Services

2021 Industry Predictions: Architects and Engineers

As COVID-19 continues to dictate our lives and have far-reaching impacts in every industry, the Architect and Engineer team at Risk Strategies is taking a forward look at what we think the new year will bring.

Investment in Transportation

In the public sector, particularly in transportation, we’ve seen a mixed bag for our clients in terms of growth. Some are having a good year, while others are seeing measurable decline in revenue streams. This is directly tied to federal and state budgets and the incidental costs brought on by the pandemic.

On the federal level, the absence of a major infrastructure bill under the Trump Administration has meant that funds for roads, bridges, highways and airports haven’t been widely available. Additionally, state budgets have generally been slashed due to the costs incurred by the pandemic. Of course, there is concern that if tax revenue continues to decline well into 2021 there will be an inability to fund public work at the budgeted levels.

However, there are notable exceptions. Illinois, for example, announced this summer a $21.3 billion investment in state roads and bridges over the next six years.

Changes in Real Estate

COVID-19 has forced a reimagining of how people interact with each other within the built environment. In 2021, we may see the long-term effects of social distancing start to play out.

The way we shop has completely changed. People can order just about anything online and have it delivered to their front doors step seamlessly. With this creature comfort becoming habit across the nation, what will happen to shopping centers? Well into next year, we predict that limiting in-person interactions will continue to be a priority, forcing companies to adapt new strategies.

America’s workforce has settled into working remotely. Even employers are becoming more comfortable with this new normal, especially as savings from closed office buildings continue to bolster the bottom line. In 2021, we may start seeing employers effectively transfer a portion of the costs to their employees, meaning less utility costs and rent payments. In terms of hiring practices, employers have a larger pool of candidates, as geography is far less of an issue. Overall, the workforce appears to have adapted to the changes made in 2020 and we will continue to see this trend into the new year.

Addressing the New Needs of Property Owners

Will 2021 be the beginning of the end for high-rise office buildings? Possibly, but more likely they will simply be reimagined. We may see fewer companies occupying physical office space, but property owners are already looking at news ways to maximize the space they have for new uses.

Instead of office buildings, we may start seeing more entertainment centers, residential use, or in an extreme move, property owners may decide to demolish underused spaces to make room for greenspace that enhances the attractiveness and value of an existing space.

In the new year, architectural and engineering firms will focus on how to address the changing needs of property owners, as it’s unlikely that urban planning will revert to its pre-COVID phase. Based on the professional opinions of health care officials, we anticipate that much of 2021 will look a lot like 2020.

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