The pandemic has intensified the use of technology. This, in turn, has led to new behaviors that will impact the next ecological transition and how we will experience our cities and homes.
It is not a novelty
We have always adapted our way of life to new technologies: the difference now is that change has been imposed on us quickly.
Today the impact of new technologies is more about a change in culture than in habits.
The mutation has taken place, and it has already taught us a lot. The commercial areas of the cities have emptied, the residential areas are full but lack some services.
The impact on buildings
The short-term impact on architecture will be tremendous: people's needs change rapidly, which is why buildings must change quickly too. The most striking examples? The construction of entire hospitals in a few days, or the rehabilitation of existing structures.
The hotels are transformed into long-term accommodation. Empty stores are used as temporary office hubs. Companies that do not use their offices invite students to use part of their space during university closure. Even cruise ships (MSC's very recent example) are trying to readjust themselves as spaces for smartworking.
The pandemic has made us aware of the need for flexibility.
We build structures that will last for centuries. To maintain their value, they must be adaptable to short and long term changes. And the ecological transition will have to make them even more sustainable.
The impact on spaces
The pandemic has also changed the way we use public space. Walking, cycling, public transport, meeting in the park prevents the spread of the virus.
Attractive parks and public spaces, cycling and walking paths have become more important than ever for the city.
In summary: the impact of the pandemic has finally led both people and politicians to work for sustainable transformation. For a true ecological transition. Covid has given us, despite the general tragedy, the impetus necessary to create a carbon-free society.
Here are five predictions about the direction of this possible, and in many ways desired transformation.
1. Quality of life before proximity to the workplace.
We will no longer accept commuting for hours every day to go to work. We have learned that many professions can offer work, even quality, from a distance. Offices will still be important centers for meetings, social gatherings and collaborative work, but I predict that many companies will need less space in the city. I also foresee the rise of medium-sized cities located close to the metropolitan belt, because in smaller cities people can find a better quality of life at a lower cost.
2. Return to the city on foot.
Sustainable transformation requires less transport. Therefore, the ecological transition will give us a demand for more mixed cities where we have everything we need within walking distance or by bike. City to travel in 15 minutes, to be synthetic.
We don't want to travel long distances to large shopping districts or malls that close at night. We would like to spend our days in a thriving and diverse environment, but closer to where we live. This will require more mixed cities, which can also be covered on foot.
3. The new rise of culture.
Retail plays an important role in today's city, but the pandemic has taught everyone that you can also buy from a distance. The ecological transition, then, will generally involve more conscious and less compulsive buying. As such, the business will likely keep smaller showrooms in town, while stocks will be kept out of town. With fewer shops, the social offer will have to include more cultural offerings to keep city life lively.
Libraries, playrooms, open spaces for discussion, perhaps innovative fruition hubs that will compensate a little for the large multiplexes. The limit is creativity.
4. Beautiful parks and public spaces
In the last century, the impact of the Spanish influence led to an increase in investments in parks and public spaces. Pandemics seem to spread more in more densely populated areas, so having more open and organized spaces serves our well-being.
Public parks also help characterize cities, counteract the rise of heat in urban areas and contribute to biodiversity. We will also find innovative ones, capable of redefining the difference between closed and open spaces.
5. Efficient use of existing facilities.
Empty buildings are death for city life, we saw it during the pandemic. Empty buildings are also a waste of resources and produce less income for their owners. I believe we will see a wave of transformation of existing buildings.
To embrace the ecological transition we will need to be good at using buildings for more than one purpose, avoiding them remaining empty (and useless) for most of the day.