To our clients, collaborators, and community:
As someone who started a commercial real estate services firm in the depths of the Great Recession and was diagnosed with cancer in the same week as my loving pit (and stok co-founder) Miley, I’ve become accustomed to handling what some may call ‘crisis’. Through it all, I’ve found comfort knowing one thing, something that became stok’s unofficial tagline in our younger years: we’ll figure it out.
‘We’ll figure it out’ is steeped in adaptability, resilience, and grit. In the face of a pandemic that’s stripped the concept of ‘unprecedented’ of its meaning, these qualities are critical. Thankfully, even amid vast uncertainty and trepidation, we’re seeing people everywhere rise up and dig into their new normal. I’d like to provide a glimpse into stok’s new normal, where we see opportunities, and how we all can take this pause to find a way to come together and fundamentally rethink how we operate as a society.
“As we work to safeguard our team’s physical, mental, and financial health and well-being while continuing to dive deep into our work, we can’t ignore those who don’t have that luxury, whose lives and livelihoods are most at risk, and whose stories paint a picture of exacerbated inequality in times of crisis.”
For stok, truthfully, in the short term there hasn’t been much of a shift. Protecting our team members’ health and upholding our responsibility to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, all stok offices are complying with statewide ‘stay at home’ orders and have ceased non-essential work travel until further notice. Fortunately, we’ve supported flexible working arrangements for years and have invested in the technology and processes to ensure that our team members service projects as productively from home as we did from our offices (albeit with a few more virtual lunches on our calendars and apocalyptic memes in our chat channels). That said, we’re also committed to supporting all our clients and partners as we collectively navigate new state and local mandates. We encourage you to reach out if we’re working together on a project that is under unique circumstances so we can collaboratively find ways to continue our support. We are continually monitoring updates from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments and will adapt to all updated guidance provided.
As we work to safeguard our team’s physical, mental, and financial health and well-being while continuing to dive deep into our work, we can’t ignore those who don’t have that luxury, whose lives and livelihoods are most at risk, and whose stories paint a picture of exacerbated inequality in times of crisis. Fostering social equity has always been a key component of stok’s purpose, and in the challenging times we’re all facing, coming together to give back to those most in need is imperative. We’ve already seen so many of our clients using their tools and resources to serve communities around the globe in the face of COVID-19, and it makes us even more proud of these partnerships. In alignment with our JUST Label, stok has committed to donating 2% of our annual profits to charity. In 2020, we’re donating to global and local organizations that are leading outbreak efforts, including the World Health Organization Solidarity Response Fund, CDC Foundation, and our local food banks through Feeding America.
“Healthy buildings—from fabrics and finishes, to indoor air quality, to acoustics—will become drastically more important to every owner and tenant. It’s our role to lead the industry in this shift.”
COVID-19 and the new landscape it’s shaping will undoubtedly have lasting impacts on the built environment. Buildings, as we’ve known for at least two decades now, play a critical role in both protecting and contributing to, for better or worse, our overall health. As we move into a new COVID-19 era, healthy buildings—from fabrics and finishes, to indoor air quality, to acoustics—will become drastically more important to every owner and tenant. It’s our role to lead the industry in this shift. Ask yourself, ‘How can we make our buildings healthier and more resilient to future pandemics,’ or ‘How can we incorporate real-time healthy building transparency into our spaces?’ Winston Churchill said that “we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” We’re committed to creating healthier buildings in the future so they will in turn foster and protect our health.
What has also been laid bare as a part of this crisis is that health care real estate is in dire need of an overhaul. Our cities do not have the number of beds needed to deal with future crises of this scale and we expect both private and public capital will be directed to building new hospitals and health centers, including upgrading our existing infrastructure.
As much as we’d prefer at least the option of working from our offices these past few weeks, it’s been impressive how well the infrastructure needed to support this new working paradigm has performed. That’s in large part because, for years, companies have been heavily investing in data centers to support the massive flow of digital information needed to support our modern world. With the need for data storage only increasing, we expect data center construction to follow suit. Though that may seem like it spells disaster for our fight against climate change, the same companies who will build these new data storage behemoths have increasingly committed to power them with 100% clean and renewable energy.
“As we anticipate and adjust to this new normal under a paused global economy, let’s use this time to rethink and redirect business as usual onto a truly resilient and restorative trajectory.”
We also see the potential for new construction to slow in the next year or so, as the world climbs out of the economic trough COVID-19 pushed us into. When this happens real estate owners will look inward, to improving the efficiency and reducing the operating costs of existing assets. In many ways that is also a huge boon for the critical ongoing efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.
On every scale, the collective fight against climate change and to create a built environment with health at its core is more valuable than ever. More than any time in recent history, people grasp the extent by which business as usual can be upended by external forces out of our control. Climate change has the potential to have the same impact, while exacerbating the blow of pandemics like COVID-19. It’s likely—many say undeniable—that this pandemic will fundamentally change society as we know it, catapulting us into a new normal. As we anticipate and adjust to this new normal under a paused global economy, let’s use this time to rethink and redirect business as usual onto a truly resilient and restorative trajectory. Take a deep breath, adjust your makeshift standing desk, and let’s seize this opportunity to change the way the world works for the better.
As always, we’re looking for partners to catalyze a better way forward. If you would like to connect on an idea or share how we can be doing more for our community in these times, please get in touch.
Rest assured we’ll figure it out. Together.
Stay well out there,