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  • Lorianna Kastrop

COVID-19 Pandemic: Is there a silver lining to the black cloud?

By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President/CFO, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects

As I’m writing this, I am praying for the soonest possible relief to sufferers of this illness, people who have lost their jobs, children who are out of school, businesses that are out of work, and everyone dealing with stress in their lives. It is a very frightening time in our world.

You have already seen so much communication about the dark side of the coronavirus. Here I’d like to focus on some positives. In the architectural world, we are seeing incremental progress in efficiency and green business activities directly related to the stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic.

Here are just a few that we have noted:

  1. Cities and counties have begun to allow submittals for permits in electronic form. Architects and engineers have been drafting electronically for decades, but many jurisdictions have been slow to allow anything other than large format paper construction documents. This is costly, cumbersome, and takes more time than electronic submittals. It also requires in-person delivery to city hall, which increases billable costs and adds to vehicle trips, increasing carbon emissions, traffic & parking congestion. Going digital avoids all of that and it is easy for the planning & building department officials to reply to the submissions by email.

  1. With digital signature software easily available, a clear record of signatures can be documented in the approval process (including those of the licensed architect and engineers). We have been using digital signatures and billings with our clients for years, but cities have been slow to adapt in this area as well. We are hoping to soon see changes to state & local laws to allow digital signatures in the permitting process, as we get past the outdated “wet stamp” and signature era.

  1. Telecommuting will become more widely accepted. Given the extremely high cost of office space and long commute times in the Bay Area, it’s surprising that more companies have not already switched to work-from-home strategies when possible. Yes, we want to be able to be in a professional environment, working together and sharing ideas. But sometimes, participating in an online chat or team meeting in your comfortable clothes from home is good enough.

  1. Learning what is essential and what isn’t. This is a personal judgment call, of course. It will be interesting to decide what to reconnect with once we are allowed to do so. Maybe some things will become more important—e.g., getting together with friends, working out at the gym, trips & outdoor activities, etc., and some things will be less important. I know that the next time I say “Let’s get together for lunch” I will really mean it and will schedule it right away. Construction is an essential business activity! Let’s start building again soon.

  1. Architecture can be done remotely! While sheltering from home, The Kastrop Group employees are continuing to work on projects to either submit electronically or have them ready to submit when jurisdictions re-open. Check on some of the Bay Area jurisdictions by going to our worksheet that we are updating as we obtain information. Go to our homepage at kastropgroup.com and click on the COVID-19 link at the top. If you wish to get a project started, now is a good time while things are slow, so that you will be at the front of the line when the crisis is over. We wish everyone wellness and the earliest possible recovery from this extraordinary situation. Take good care of yourselves.

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