March 30, 2020 | Lotte Schlegel

For many of us, the role that buildings play in our lives fundamentally changed this month. As we shelter in place across many cities, we have a strange new relationship to our homes, workplaces, and colleagues. We’ve unexpectedly invited our clients and colleagues into our homes via video calls, and some companies are asking whether we need offices at all. Our schools, community centers, and places of worship are temporarily unavailable in their familiar forms and our communities are mobilizing to maintain connection and continue to provide support to those who most need it.

Human history shows that our societies are resilient, and that in every major disruption lies opportunity.  Every major shock creates opportunity for growth: we learn how to be stronger and better. At IMT, we’re asking ourselves, what do we need buildings to do for people, RIGHT NOW, as well as in the long term? How do we strengthen the partnerships that will get us through this crisis and make us stronger?   

It may feel incongruous to talk about buildings and what they can do for us amidst uncertainty, anxiety, and a big economic shock the likes of which very few of us have ever seen. In the near term, when our main priority is physical and economic survival, we need buildings to protect us. Amidst anxiety and uncertainty, business, government, and community leaders are all stepping up and putting buildings to work in support of their communities. Examples include companies taking proactive action to offer rent relief to their small business tenants, as Bedrock did in Detroit, the National Multifamily Housing Council suggested guidelines for apartment firms to support renters, and Spokane turning its public library into a homeless shelter, not to mention the makeshift medical facilities popping up across the country in sports arenas and stadiums, convention centers, parking garages, and more.

Once we get our footing under us and can take stock, we will set our sights on building up our communities for the longer term. At IMT, we’ll be working alongside you to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs, improve affordability, protect public health, and improve our resilience and disaster response without leaving anyone behind. It’s a tall order, but we’re up for the challenge. For years, we’ve developed policy and business leadership frameworks to reduce emissions and we believe they are flexible enough to address broader goals. Together, we will put the frameworks and partnerships in place that will align our social and environmental goals, and drive the priorities and investments we need to strengthen our communities by making our buildings work for us.  

In this moment, when our lives and the futures of our businesses feel uncertain, I recognize the extraordinary action that each of you are taking to keep your clients and communities safe and strong.  Throughout the coming months, we at IMT remain committed to our partners: navigating the changing conditions alongside you and supporting you to put our buildings to work to solve the biggest social and environmental challenges of our time. Thank you for all that you are doing, and please call on us and tell us how we can help you.

Program Area(s):

Real Estate

Meet the Author

Lotte Schlegel

Former Executive Director

Want to get regular updates from IMT?