It can be difficult to get a good sense of a place without physically being there. Just ask the architecture community, who—like all of us—have been limited in their ability to do their jobs in-person throughout the pandemic.
And architects, more than most, tend to be a visual and tactile bunch. Feel, texture, space, acoustics and even aesthetics are difficult to get a sense of through a Zoom meeting.
It’s a conundrum the industry has been grappling with for more than a year. The research group AIM looked into this late last year, asking an important question: “How does the pandemic—and its consequences—impact architects and the means by which they obtain product information they so readily depend on for their specifications?”
According to AIM’s research, a whopping 81% of participating architects, interior designers, facility managers and engineers say that the pandemic has changed the way they seek new product information. Per AIM:
Once the pandemic began, the in-person aspect was eliminated (35% no longer have in-person visits and lunch-n-learns), which seems to be directly replaced with virtual meetings (34%). However, the aspect of getting product information online remains strong (25%).
The AIM study further emphasizes the shift from in-person to virtual/online. Just look at … the increase in online CEU attendance pre- to post-COVID (30% to 73%) or the dramatic decrease in office CEU Meet & Greets pre-COVID to post-COVID (77% to 11%). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, architects are using more online resources, phone calls and email to get product information. These results stress the importance of providing product information on websites (a 15% increase) and a dramatic rise of online presentations (43% increase).
The implications for the commercial glass industry here are important. When drawing up specifications, architects rely on information. They need assurance that the glass and glazing components they choose are going to deliver performance that contributes to an efficient, comfortable and long-lasting built environment. Building performance depends on it—as does the architect and their firm’s reputation.
Additionally, we may never see things go “back to normal,” or at least not as we once knew them. After a year of virtual collaboration, many industries are questioning many traditional business paradigms. For example, Canadian Architect magazine suggests the following: “We knew that air travel was massively contributing to climate change. We were holding on to an old paradigm—that as design architects, we could only be truly effective if we showed up physically and regularly. Clients will still want the best architects for their projects, but travel will be strategic. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other platforms are proving that we can collaborate and communicate effectively in real time.”
In light of these trends, what should we as fenestration professionals do to ensure we’re arming architects with the information and education they need to create high-performance buildings? I think it comes down to two things:
Making information—and ourselves—accessible. As architects increasingly turn toward digital channels to find the product information they need when writing specifications, we need to make that information easy to access on our online platforms and venues. Technical documentation, testing data and educational content are all valuable resources for a remotely working architect who really wants to get to know your product better.
But a data sheet or a webinar isn’t always enough. Make it easy for architects to follow up with your reps and have ongoing conversations as they solidify their material choices throughout the project. And when the world opens up again, be available for on-site or office visits.
Maintaining strong relationships. Our industry has always been relationship-driven—something that I don’t think the pandemic has changed. If anything, relationships are more important than ever.
People work with people they trust. Our collective ability to build that trust, and to work closely and collaboratively with all of our customers, is critical to the advancement of the commercial glass industry. Especially as stringent new codes and regulations around the world drive more efficient building envelopes, architects must be certain their designs will meet those high standards. As a collective group, we must continue to advocate for glass as the material of choice for façade performance and aesthetics. Continuing to foster our relationships with this design and engineering audience, and by providing them with the information they need, will be key to success.
How are you working to make yourself and your products and services more accessible to your customers in an increasingly virtual world? I’d love to hear your answers—drop me a line at Joe.Erb@Quanex.com.