Building in the Time of COVID-19

By Max Miller, Jr.

While I was social distancing at home, I was talking with an electrician friend and he said that builders are not slowing down on projects at all. If anything they are accelerating. This observation was confirmed later the same day as I walked my dog and listened to the smacking of hammers and the kachunking of nail guns on a large apartment complex under construction. Tradespeople appear to remain very busy. It reminded me of Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in which people tried to engage in “normal” life while an epidemic consumed the country. Then, I talked to an architect friend who said a large developer just pulled the plug on a major project still in the planning stages. Too much uncertainty overwhelmed everyone. I am sure there are plenty of examples of this happening this week as well.

As we stand in the starting gate of this giant slalom coronavirus upheaval, and plan our route to try and make all of the gates and avoid crashing into the boundary fences, it makes sense that many variables will go into decisions about construction. There is lots of discussion about flattening the curve of the virus, but there are other curves to consider – mortgage and lending rates, markets, employment. Will they be spikey, short and steep, long and flattened? Plot your route and try not to catch too many edges.