While we are currently living in the middle of the pandemic with record-breaking daily new cases and deaths, we must be even stronger to keep our distance and at home to avoid the spread as much as possible.
Whether voluntary or not, the quarantine has brought us a new normal, which we've already heard and lived many times during these last couple of months. But what has this meant for the Residential developments in Miami? Or any place? How has the pandemic affected building permits, construction, planning, or even selling our projects? Let's take a look back at it, each of them.
Design and Planning Residential Developments in Miami
The program for residential developments in Miami has changed. A home Studio or Office is now part of the basic program new constructions or remodelings or at least the flexibility to transform a room into one. Common interior areas of each unit have also become more critical as we are now spending so much time inside. Not only the way we draw and document projects have changed, but also what we include in the design.
In addition to the design program, we've noticed a few other aspects in or day to day work that changed during this time:
Site visits, meetings are more limited than before, and mostly done remotely. While it's arguable better for the professionals and clients as we waste less time moving around, we do have some loss against in-person looking.
Design collaboration is vital. While paper initial sketches are hard to kill, it's been a while since all design ends up drawn digitally, or better yet modeled digitally (BIM 3D Modeling for instance). Today not only are we building virtually, but we are also doing so collaboratively and online.
Most in-person project presentations with multiple printout copies are now fully digital and remotely given, which means that our presentations must consider the digital format and screen sharing methods. And as a side benefit, fewer printed papers that end up trashed anyway, which is good.
Document sharing and online collaboration suites, while not new, they were - at least in the design industry - poorly used for document and report preparation. Today it has never been more important to share a folder online with tools such as Dropbox, Onedrive, or an office NAS.
How the pandemic changed Building Permitting
Building Permitting is probably the most impacted part that the pandemic has brought to Residential Developments in Miami or any project for that matter, with the implementation of Digital Plans and online submittals.
Digital plans allow reviewers from many departments to study the projects at the same time. In the traditional paper-submittals, each blueprint set arrived at a department, had for the corresponding review, and then sent to the next department until the cycle ended.
Today, many Building Departments stepped up their transition to an online/digital plan submittal and permitting. Some didn't even have them in their plans before the pandemic and made the transition anyways.
Here are what some cities in Miami-Dade county have done:
- City of Miami: had already transitioned to the electronic system but now added online phone meetings as well.
- Miami-Dade County: while accepting digital plans a long while ago, you could only deliver them in person on a CD with a signed letter stating which drawings where digital. They have not transitioned to an online submittal system
- Miami Beach: was beginning its online trial system when the pandemic hit. While not fully prepared, they had a head start and working well and fast today. They have implemented virtual meetings and inspections as well.
- Miami Shores: has also implemented an online submittal system that they have been able to implement slightly more peacefully as they have fewer projects in their pipeline. They do not have too much information online, maybe due to the same reason.
- City of Doral: They quickly transitioned to an electronic-only permitting system with digital signature or paper drawings, but with a paper statement scanned. They are even mandating to scan prior plans and uploading them to the new system.
- Village of Pinecrest: have not made a move as to digital to this date. New and existing submittals can only be delivered via the drop-offs system they have located outside the building.
Building the project during the pandemic
Construction work cannot be remote, we know. How can you lay bricks, mortar, or shovel remotely? But that doesn't mean it hasn't been somehow affected with the pandemic.
Any construction in Florida requires inspections during the building. These inspections always take precious time in our Gantt chart as they are as unpredictable as possible.
When scheduling an inspection, most of the time, the inspector comes the day they say, but you never know what time, and sometimes you wait all day only to discover later that they pushed the inspection for the next day.
With the pandemic, many cities have resolved to do virtual meeting inspections with a video call. While it was a mess at the beginning, when inspectors and contractors took ahold of it, it got more comfortable than ever to pass small inspections, assuming there is enough cellphone signal at the site.
These video-call revies, start with a hard to miss, day and time schedule assigned only to the project. It doesn't matter the inspector's route, traffic, or car breakdowns anymore; contractors will get that call at the scheduled day and time. While more significant inspections still require on-site visits, this saves time for the least complicated or smaller reviews.
What about selling the project?
Virtual walkthroughs and 3D picture cameras and software such as Matterport are slowly flooding the internet and Real Estate selling process platforms. With these applications, you can look around the property and practically walk between rooms.
The bottom line for Residential Developments in Miami
In the end, this new normal has helped residential developments, in general, to push forward the inevitable electronic and digital world we now live in. There hasn't been a new - breakthrough - technology during the pandemic, only the need and the pressure to use what we have more effectively.
Between all the pain, deaths, and economic disaster that the pandemic left us with, there is some good, and we should embrace it. Electronic plan submittals saves us up to 5 times more time than paper-only submittals. 3D walkthroughs help developers sell and reach even more potential buyers or renters. And, video call inspection wasn't even in the minds of building departments, and now a daily routine.
With these "New Normal" tools that the pandemic brought to residential developments in Miami, we don't only move faster; we move more efficiently. And the bottom line will end up reflecting it if we think out of the box and accept the changes.
"Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss."Benjamin Button