World Environment Day 2020: The year of resilience and transformation
In living memory, never perhaps has there been a time where truly the entire world has shut down and is struggling to grapple with health, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental turmoil all at the same time. 2020 has not been an easy year so far.
Covid-19 has both divided and united the world simultaneously and at large. Among other challenges, climate change looms over us with frequent reminders of nature’s imbalance whilst prompting us to rethink about the way we live. Data points are staggering; value chains disrupted in ways we do not know yet; and, what we took for granted seems like a distant luxury now. We find ourselves as reluctant actors in a dystopian movie plot where fact and fiction are blurred and every day our resilience is tested against a background score of consistent uncertainty. In all likelihood, ongoing events and those leading up to them will have a far-reaching impact on all of us. We may see the following responses to shape our resilience.
The emergence of the home as a sanctuary: Lockdowns world over have confined us to our homes as the centre of our lives. Ownership, location, proximity, form, function, arrangement/sequence, adaptability, flexibility, planning, design and development will all undergo significant changes.
Change in planning and design of different asset classes: Most other asset classes will see a change in some format owing to new ways of living, working, learning, shopping, eating/drinking and playing among others to adapt to changes and the emergence of new demographics thrown up against the current scenario.
Decentralisation of downtown: While this was already underway, it may be expedited as more people work from home and the need for physical concentration and density of work creation at key locations becomes less prevalent.
More Mixed-Use and Mixed-Income self-sufficient neighbourhoods: Smaller home/residential centred mixed-use and mixed-income communities may come up to ensure for self-sustenance and provide for equitable opportunities from a socio-economic standpoint.
Importance of Transit-Oriented Development: While travel comes back to normal and the need for travel may see some change; transit and transit-oriented development would become important to ensure 3 and 4 above in shaping our cities as more equitable working engines of growth and opportunity.
The emergence of new asset classes and their combinations: In the pervasive sharing economy, we have already seen the emergence of co-working spaces. We may see more such trends in living, retail, hospitality, industrial and other sectors. From a design and planning standpoint, and owing to the current scenario, we are already seeing combinations between health/wellness and other sectors.
Experience of merging virtual and physical spaces: By effectively creating an alternative to real commuting with telecommuting we would see more focus on the design, planning and management of spaces that overlap between physical and virtual worlds to create optimum experiences across sectors.
Need for flexible spaces: Design and planning of spaces would need to effectively cater to individual isolation/communal use; multiuse adaptation; scaling; physical/virtual use and experience and change.
Use of new and improved technology: From due diligence, estimating use/usability and generating a brief using big data, design/planning tools, customer interface, marketing/sales digitisation, contracting, use of smart materials, prefabricated/pre-engineered construction/delivery, automation, sensing, measurement and lifecycle use – ‘Prop Tech’ may emerge as a new discipline and ecosystem.
Focus on sustainability, health and wellness: This is the primary reason for our resilience It is our responsibility to ensure triple bottom line sustainability as individuals and as a collective to not only repair our planet but make all necessary changes that will reverse the impact of climate change in setting up our environment for a healthier future.
Our resilience and transformation may not just be limited to trends alone, but in truly evolving the way we live, learn, work, play, eat, drink and socialise. These difficult times are teaching us what is important and for the right reasons. They are reminding us of what we do not want with clear insight into what a brighter future could be.
Despite all current challenges, the skies are bluer, the air is cleaner, water is purer, flora and fauna seem to be regenerating and we are sure that we like it this way as compared to how it has been. Perhaps and hopefully, we will see the silver lining in these dark clouds and the year 2020 in the future will come to represent the idea that hindsight was indeed 2020; and that we as humans changed our ways for the better to deserve a sustainable and healthy future.
By Anubhav Gupta: Business Head - Vikhroli, Head of CSR and Sustainability, Founder of GPL Design Studio, Godrej Properties Ltd.