Cities around the globe have been hit hard by Covid-19. The question is: do such cities have a future? Our answer is yes. Find out how such cities stand a chance.
A slow return to normality
Some of the world’s cities have been hit very hard by the coronavirus and every business has faced unexpected challenges. We do not believe however, that cities will now become extinct. If you just take New York as an example, it has survived the Spanish Flu, numerous financial crises and the terrorist attacks of 2001. In all instances, it rose like a phoenix from the ashes.
Doubtless we will see more people working from home but not all jobs lend themselves to this model and even if they do, the need for social interaction means that it is unlikely to be something people opt to do 100% of the time. The number of desks needed may shrink, but office demand should not fall off a cliff.
In terms of their private lives, people emerging from lockdowns are eager to go out again to eat and drink in bars, cafes and restaurants; visit their favourite shops, museums and galleries; and listen to live music. They want to do this with friends in order to make the experience richer.
We see strong evidence that cities will remain the growth engines of the global economy. Whilst the urbanisation trend might have slowed because of the pandemic, it still remains and must now more than ever be addressed with ‘liveability’ in mind.
Technology is a tool which can make our cities smarter and more sustainable. In a ‘smart’ city, everything will be connected: traffic lights, street lights, buildings, roads and the self-driving cars using them. Smart cities will be heavily reliant on data which will be collected by an armada of sensors and cameras spread around the city, gathering information about traffic, temperature, air quality and humidity, both inside and outside. Smart cities should make our lives easier by utilising new generations of telecommunications technology and employing artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
The fifth generation of cellular networks (5G) is still being rolled out around the globe. This expansion of digital infrastructure is key to making our cities fit for the future. 5G should pave the way for the Internet of Things to come into its own.
With all these devices connected, smarter energy, water and waste management can be put in place, contributing to a more efficient use of resources in cities, with the ultimate goal of making them more sustainable.
To make our cities more fit for the future, we see the expansion of digital infrastructure as an absolute necessity, independent of the corona crisis. Nevertheless, the pandemic has provided a catalyst for infrastructure investments overall, as stimulus packages have been rolled out around the world.
Apart from investments in new buildings, it is vital to modernise existing structures in order to remain up-to-date in terms of the ever-evolving building regulations and to be able to retain or even attract tenants.
Providers of systems such as lifts, escalators, heating and ventilation should all benefit from these investments. And the pandemic may well prompt the uptake of technologies that had never been considered previously.
Manufacturers of such specialised equipment as air-conditioning systems that can be enhanced with disinfectant and room sensors that can detect general humidity levels, should now benefit from a much higher requirement for companies to look out for the health of employees.
The ability to be able to convince staff that their health is not at risk in the office will be a big catalyst to get those workers back to the workplace. Smart buildings will go a long way towards achieving this.