Erica Gentilucci

January 13, 2021

How 5 Environmental Trends Will Affect Real Estate Development in 2021

If there’s one big thing we learned in 2020, it’s that the future is never certain. COVID-19 also demonstrated that—while we may not know exactly what’s ahead—we can gain valuable insight from years past (and the scientific community) to guide us towards a better future.

In any given year, a number of factors can have an impact on real estate development and on construction teams. The future is never certain, but recent trends have shown us that 2021 will present challenges. However, proper due diligence and preparation can make it easier to recover from the impact of disasters or prepare teams for new ways of working.

Here’s what you can expect moving into 2021.

1. Natural disasters will have an even greater impact

There’s no doubt that there will be natural disasters ahead. The West Coast will have fires. The South is likely to see hurricanes and tornadoes. And time will tell if the Midwest will be hit with another derecho anytime soon.

What is indisputable is the large-scale impacts these events will have on communities. We’ve seen with each recent year that natural disasters are costing more and more to recover from each year—and this trend will only continue to rise.

Communities must have a disaster response plan. This includes local and state governments as well as homeowners and building owners. In addition, storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes will create significant areas of renovation. It will be vital for project managers to ensure environmental due diligence before beginning any major renovations needed due to natural disasters.

2. Infection control will continue even after cases stabilize  

Currently, a COVID-19 third-party Jobsite Safety Accountability Supervisor (JSAS) is required for all large construction projects in California. When cases finally stabilize, a new element of safety will become commonplace for construction projects. 

In 2021, JSAS inspections will likely be needed for several months to come. But even after these are no longer required, the expectation is that building owners and construction companies will maintain this extra aspect of health and safety management. For example, workers will be expected and encouraged to stay home when sick, and paid leave will become more common. (After all, this is far less costly than an outbreak shutting down a job site.)

3. Remote is here to stay  

Don’t expect talk of remote work to go away anytime soon. In fact, construction companies, developers, and building owners are just now scratching the surface of what remote work can do. Expect more developments in remote site inspections and virtual capabilities as a whole.

Just as many companies have shifted to Zoom to conduct meetings, we expect construction site inspections and bid walks to be pared down to remote video walkthroughs. Technologies like Matterport and remote cameras will be more integrated into workflows, replacing the need to be present on-site and reducing infection risk. 

Post-COVID, we don’t expect this practice to fade, as it gives stakeholders across the country a chance to view sites and provide input. Owners and investors may have an opportunity to expand their national presence, building and developing outside of their local areas.

4. There will be an increased focus on sustainability

Environmental responsibility will play an even greater role in real estate development nationwide in 2021, especially in the pre-construction phase. California will continue to be tough on environmental regulations. As a new administration moves into the White House, it’s likely that we’ll see new environmental regulations enforced nationwide. Developers and building owners will have to take a closer look at their processes and ensure potential environmental hazards are not overlooked. 

5. Retail spaces will be repurposed and reimagined

Malls and retail spaces continue to suffer from evolving consumer trends over the past decade. COVID-19 created additional challenges that forced many to shut down either temporarily or for good. 

In 2021, developers will become more interested in repurposing these spaces for modern usage. Examples include:

  1. Turning storefronts into coworking spaces
  2. Repurposing large retail space into warehouses and distribution centers
  3. Replacing large parking lots with real estate

As this occurs, developers and construction teams will have to address the environmental impact of these efforts. What environmental liabilities can buyers expect? How can existing space be repurposed in a way that leaves behind the smallest environmental footprint?

Whatever may be ahead, Essel Environmental can help you stay on schedule as much as possible with due diligence and health and safety management services. To learn more, call the E-Team at 1-800-595-7616.