Those of us in the design and Architectural profession, and the construction professions generally will now understand that while the economy is in lockdown, the business of remaining in practice is nearing a cliff.

That is the overheads for construction professionals do not stop because of the lockdown. Most Architectural practices require a group or individual to guarantee loans and capital to start the entity. The principle place of residence is on the bank loan covenants and now many of us face a very uncertain medium term future. Long term, loyal employees and support staff must now be stood down or terminated all at the same time. Most practices will not have the funds to be able to pay all staff their redundancy and long service leave and other entitlements all at once. I can not think of a single professional practice that would be able to do this.

What is survival mode then, what to do? Leases on premises, bank loans, housing loans, children’s school expenses and costs, medical insurance the cascade of debt is upon us! The Australian government is preparing some support for businesses affected by the pandemic I offer some sage advice. We are all in this together, and now we must support each other.

Those that remain in the industry have a steep climb ahead.

Those that may retire may well have seen at least 30% of their retirement funds vanish into the ether. There will be a bounce and recovery at the end of this catastrophe, and we must be flexible and resilient in the latest management ethos, to come out more robust and productive on the other side.

First is to ensure everyone’s mental health is evaluated and the support mechanisms are there, check on your friends, associates and ask, “Are you OK?” While we are locked in keep the mind and if possible the physical health in order. Eat well and try not to use anything to dull the pain, or resort to alcohol.

My suggestion to those who have had the middle stump taken out. Look after your family first, and if you have dependants do what you must to see their education is not disrupted.

As a profession we need to remove the stigma of “Bankruptcy” or insolvency which would prevent professionals continuing to practice if they are declared insolvent. This is irrelevant and not in current circumstances a sign of mis-management. This may need legislation, as with Architects they are automatically de-registered if they are declared bankrupt.

Training and Professional Development

If you have not got a favourite project to continue with, fixing up the car or motorbike, home renovations etc then I suggest you look seriously at additional training and qualifications.

In this measure the professional bodies should take this up with the government. If you do a Masters currently you can not get income assistance. This is meaningless in the current circumstances when a huge number of people have been stood down. We need access to Certificate IV’s, Diplomas and Masters for any professional who is not working full time.

I suggest first up the following courses, a cert IV in safety, a cert IV in Training and assessment, a cert IV in business management, Diplomas in Professional Practice, Masters of Project Management, Master’s of business Management, further Design Professional Development. In the current situation I would suggest professional bodies defray the cost, or allow them to be free, and allow professionals to do as many professional development courses as they are willing to participate in. We should also be training in the use of spreadsheets and project management software, BIM.

I would suggest universities and TAFES purchase CNC 3D routers and 3D plastic printers and allow those taking 3D BIM and CAD courses to be in a que and have their innovations made. Use universities as incubators. This would allow remote professionals to become familiar with 3D design and production. Purchase other BIM to production equipment and start experimenting and designing and prototyping!

If this plan is followed, when the crisis abates we will have a fundamentally more qualified and skilled profession than when we went into the pandemic shutdown. Our productivity will be higher and we can bring innovation and efficiency to the table to grow and be more productive to quickly get back what we have lost. In the gloom of the DOOMSDAY, we must see the opportunities of the new dawn. Material possessions are in the end the illusion of wealth and privilege. Construction professionals are FLEXIBLE and AGILE so make the best out of this opportunity. Stay positive and keep talking to colleagues and friends if this becomes overwhelming, though understand we are not done yet, not by a huge margin!

Louis Sullivan Architect, considered to be the “Father” of the skyscraper was left bereft by the 1929 depression. A designer of immeasurable talent, who mentored Frank Lloyd Wright, even if they later fell out for a short period.

After Louis Sullivan was left insolvent and destitute Frank Lloyd Wright would assist him in his hour of need. We would never have had the great Architecture of FLW without the mentoring of Louis Sullivan, both of whom also mentored generations of American and International Architects. Support your colleagues in these difficult times and allow them to recover their reputations and their assets when the crisis of the pandemic ends.