Coping With the Coronavirus: A Guide for Architecture Firms

These resources aim to support, connect and boost the morale of design professionals during these uncertain times.

Architizer Editors Architizer Editors

These are unprecedented times for architects and designers, on a multitude of levels. First of all, our thoughts are with anyone who may be sick or who is caring for a sick relative. People’s health must come first, and work can seem insignificant when we are faced with a human crisis on this scale.

As well as our physical health, the mental toll of the COVID 19 outbreak is weighing on everyone, particularly those creative minds within the architecture and design industries. At one end of the spectrum we have the potential for boredom and a lack of motivation when disconnected from our teams. There are also immense logistical challenges associated with undertaking tech-heavy work at home, with both hardware and software limitations making the production of drawings, models and presentations much more difficult. 

At the other end of the spectrum, people are battling against anxiety, fueled by a host of social and economic challenges. As well as the restlessness that comes with social distancing, many firms are feeling less certain about retaining clients and securing future work in the coming months. Any resources that help architects to continue their work with the minimum amount of disruption are therefore vital.

We scoured the internet and were glad to find a number of incredible resources that aim to support professionals during these uncertain times. We’ve listed a number of them here, and have also included a few marketing and communication suggestions of our own, which should be beneficial to architects planning for the long term.

1. Apply for a Disaster Relief Loan

Many firms, particularly small and medium-sized studios, have been left vulnerable as clients tighten their purse strings and future work becomes substantially less assured. Architect April Hughes, Board President at AIA Chicago, has written an in-depth guide to help architects in need file for an SBA COVID-19 Disaster Relief Loan to help them through these unsettled times. 

“I want firm owners to know that applying for a loan like this is not admission of failure, or lack of planning,” says Hughes. “It’s a helping hand that our government is supplying to make sure that small business (which represents 99.9% of all firms in the US according to the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy) stays in business on the other side of this quickly changing global disaster.” Read April Hughes’ guide in full here.

2. Take advantage of design software discounts

Some of the industry’s largest software makers are responding to the changing needs of architects and designers by extending access to their services during the next few weeks and months.

These include companies like Autodesk, Graphisoft and Adobe, which have offered a variety of free access, emergency licenses, and extended grace periods for renewing their products. You can see the details for each company and how they might help your firm by clicking on the links below:

Adobe

Autodesk

ZOHO Remotely

Graphisoft

Morpholio

Wanda Lau of ARCHITECT magazine has curated an extended list of tools to aid companies working remotely during the outbreak, with an emphasis on supporting nonprofits during this time. Read Wanda’s full list here.

3. Help your team transition to work from home

For architects that are used to a highly collaborative way of working, switching to remote working can be a daunting logistical challenge. However, with the right structures put in place, it should be possible for firms of all sizes to work efficiently and keep morale up while working from home.

Design strategist Evelyn Lee of the Practice of Architecture has put together an invaluable document outlining ways to work remotely for small, medium, large and extra large firms. Her crowdsourced document includes templates for virtual communications, staying connected with colleagues and clients, and a host of other resources to help your studio transition.

For more tips on how to work from home during this period, check out Architizer’s article 5 Ways Architects Can Work Efficiently Through the Coronavirus Outbreak.

4. Refresh your collaboration tools

In terms of software, there are a number of useful messaging and video conferencing tools that make working remotely easier for teams. A number of them are also providing special offers to help companies get started during this period. They include:

Slack

Slack strives to replace email by helping users prioritize, sort and respond to communication in a way that suits them. Instead of a single overstuffed inbox, conversations in Slack happen in dedicated spaces called channels. Shared channels enable you to align around common goals with all the people on a project in one space, whether they’re down the hall or at a different company. 

Slack is offering $100 off your team’s subscription when you sign up using this link.

For a great guide on how to make slack work for you, check out our recent article Young Architect Guide: Transform Your Project Workflow with a Virtual Workspace.

Google docs

The most advanced tool available right now to take advantage of cloud computing is Google’s G Suite, as it’s the best integrated of the cloud products on offer. For an architect, this means running a firm with exceptionally low overhead costs, saving significant time coordinating documents within a project team and shrinking the distance between themselves and the job site.

Instead of emailing single files back and forth, everyone on a project team, from consultants to contractors, can edit the same document or spreadsheet in Google’s Docs and Sheets apps, eliminating unnecessary duplication of work or missed communications. The gains in efficiency might seem small but they add up to a considerable amount over the life of a project, and they make the whole process smoother, as well.

You can acquire Google Docs for Business for just $12 per month. Sign up here. Learn more about how designers can use Google’s G Suite in our article How Architects Can Supercharge Their Project Workflow Using the Cloud.

Zoom

Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones and room systems. Zoom Rooms is the leading software-based conference room solution used around the world in board, conference, huddle and training rooms, as well as executive offices and classrooms.

The 40-minute meeting limit on the free basic accounts of Zoom’s videoconferencing app has been lifted for any K–12 school in many countries affected by COVID-19, including the U.S., Japan, Italy, and Canada.

Dropbox

According to ARCHITECT Magazine, the cloud-based file storage and management system is offering free Dropbox Business and HelloSign Enterprise subscriptions for a three-month period to nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations that are focused on “fighting the spread of COVID-19.” Dropbox Business offers team collaboration tools along with file storage, while HelloSign coordinates digital signatures for documents.

5. Continue your marketing efforts online

With expos and tradeshows cancelled or postponed around the world, companies need to look at different avenues to showcase their work and connect with potential new clients. One way to do this is to refresh your website with the help of guides like this Appfluence article How To Make a Website for Your Architecture Firm.

Linkedin also provides a number of tips on how to connect with clients and tell your story in new ways. Perhaps this is the ideal moment to write that first blog post you’ve been meaning to create for the last year? Check out the article The State of Guest Blogging: How to Guest Post and Grow Your Traffic for a great starting point.

Another way to help maintain exposure for your firm is to submit recent work in awards programs like the 8th Annual A+Awards, which celebrates the world’s best architecture and building products each year.

To support firms that need more time to prepare their submission, we have extended the final entry deadline for the 2020 A+Awards until May 8th this year. The program provides winners with a tremendous amount of exposure and recognition, giving architects powerful potential to celebrate what they do despite the economic slowdown. 

For more information and to submit your work for the 8th Annual A+Awards, click here.

6. Keep your team informed and inspired

Architects are no strangers to online research, regularly finding design precedents, materials and products using a plethora of web-based platforms. Architizer is one such platform, and its archive of some 8,000 blog posts includes hundreds of guides to building typologies, architectural details, material guides and more to help inform and inspire architects. If you’re working from home and looking for something to spark your imagination, check out the following content groups for starters:

The “Art of Rendering” series — includes “How To” guides for achieving a variety of effects in your architectural visualizations. 

The “How Architecture Is Born” series — charts the work of several iconic architecture firms from ideas to finished buildings, including sketches, models, drawings, diagrams and even paintings.

The “Architectural Details” series — a collection of case studies that explore unique details of landmark projects through the medium of drawings, diagrams and photographs. 

The “Architectural Drawings” series — a collection of inspirational projects shown through the medium of plans, sections and elevations.

The “Young Architect Guide” series — a series of guides for architecture students, emerging architects and young practices on a broad array of subjects including how to run an architecture firm, how to communicate with clients, how to work more efficiently and how to success in business.

We’ll keep adding to this guide over the following weeks with more resources as they come in. If you have architect-specific tools and resources of your own you would like us to consider, please email editorial@architizer.com.

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