Editorial: Vectors of change
“All that is solid melts into air.” - Karl Marx
By Patrick Flannery
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling the ground shifting under my feet to a degree and in directions that I never thought possible. For most of my life, it has felt like change has come fairly gradually and in the form of incremental movements along previously established trends. 9/11 was an inflection point on that journey – a sudden event that shocked the world into sharp and long-lasting realignments of previously stable dynamics. The pandemic seems to be an event of comparable impact, and it’s happening in conjunction with political events that have people questioning the very viability of democracy as we’ve understood it for the last couple centuries. Simultaneously, and working to drive change and upheaval on both of the other two fronts, the influence of social media on the way we understand the world continues to accelerate. I wonder if this revolution in the way we communicate could have similar unintended consequences. Let’s bring these fuzzy musings about change around to what we are seeing in our industry right now.
I do think the long-term future of the office tower and high-rise condominiums has been put into serious question by information technology, sharply accelerated by the pandemic. Most professionals don’t need to work out of an office any more and haven’t needed to for some time. But they continued to go in mostly out of inertia – the office was already there, it’s how the company had always operated and their bosses liked to see their smiling faces. Then the pandemic forced companies to make the change…and the results were not bad. Just about every company now knows that it can let its workers work from home and save money on office space. There are downsides in terms of company culture and teambuilding, for sure, but I find it hard to imagine they would overcome the hard dollars and cents associated with building leases, maintenance, office supplies and all the other expenses that come with maintaining a large facility.
If you don’t have to go into an office every day, why live in 500 square feet in a glass ant hill when you could move an hour out of the city and have a house, yard and no traffic for about the same price? Yes, I know the kids like the lifestyle. I also know most get tired of it within a few years.
I don’t predict complete abandonment of downtown cores or anything radical like that, but I do see the potential for a depressed market for new space going forward, and less maintenance and renovation work. Energy efficiency upgrades might mitigate some of that.
We talk about another, much more welcome change, on page 24. Glass Canada has joined with several other construction publications to participate in Women In Construction, a special channel dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in Canada’s construction industries and promoting more inclusion. We’ve all watched as more and more women join our workforces and establish themselves in great careers. And we’ve all scratched our heads as to why there haven’t been even more and how we can get more young women to take a look at what we do. Here’s a chance to recognize a change that is already happening and to drive it forward, to everyone’s benefit.•