the newsletter of tbd consultants - Spring/Summer 2020

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In this Edition

Going All-Electric
5G in Construction
Voldemort Strikes Back

Construction Management Specialists

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Going All-Electric

Covid-19 is helping us clear up the atmosphere nicely, but when business returns we will have the same issues as before. Some regions in California have started moving a step beyond net zero and trying to go all electric to eliminate fossil fuels from buildings.


5G in Construction

We have been learning how necessary it is keep connected, even while being driven apart. Here we look at the coming fifth-generation wireless cellular technology and its possible effects on construction.


Voldemort Strikes Back

Something invisible to the human eye, but which can take over a person’s body, is driving us apart while showing just how connected we all are. As a strip of RNA wrapped in a minute protein sack, it doesn’t meet any of the recognized definitions of a living being. Perhaps it is no coincidence that ‘virus’ and ‘Voldemort’ both start with the same letter.

When the NBA cancels the 2020 season it becomes obvious that things are serious. Since we don’t have Prof. Sybill Trelawney available to read the tealeaves, we’ll try to come up with our own prophecies for the coming year.

The Covid-19 virus is believed to have first made its leap to humans in China’s Wuhan City in Hubei province around the beginning of December 2019 and in the single month between January and February China’s factory activity dropped 28.6% and their service sector fell 48.8%. And that was with millions of people forced into quarantine as the authorities tried to contain the virus’s spread. After 4 months, the spread of the virus in China had been brought under some measure of control, but by that time the coronavirus had spread around the globe, with about 30 countries in all continents except Antarctica reporting cases.

It was at the end of the first quarter of this year that the virus started spreading in the US. The airline and leisure industries were being hammered as people stopped traveling unless necessary, and anything involving large gatherings of people was being discouraged or banned, and that was followed by stay-at-home orders, businesses being shuttered and people laid off. So, for the first quarter the GDP will be reduced from what might otherwise be expected and the panic buying as shelter-in-place orders started being issued is unlikely to stop the GDP figures for Q1 ending below those for 2019-Q4.

The second quarter, April through June, is when we can expect to see the virus really take off in the US, along with even tougher social distancing restrictions to slow the spread and stop medical facilities from being completely overwhelmed. That will mean that businesses will be suffering severely, and continuing layoffs will be a hammer blow to public confidence, so the likelihood of the GDP dropping again seems inevitable. The Fed used up most of its ammunition in the first quarter, but there was never really anything wrong with the economy itself. This is not an economic crisis, but a health crisis that stops business being conducted so, hopefully, test kits will become more available so that the virus can really be tracked.

By the third quarter, we will almost certainly have met the common definition of a recession, which is two consecutive quarters of negative growth. By July, hopefully the spread of the virus will be slowing down, although there are no guarantees. There is no clear evidence at the time of writing (end of March) that summer weather will deter the virus, but it had been spreading slower in the southern hemisphere than in the north so, as the Sun moves closer to us, the prolonged sunshine may bring some relief. There will also be the fact that a lot of the population will have built up immunity by having already been infected. That should enable commerce to start moving back onto a firmer footing again. However, consumer confidence will have taken a battering by the unprecedented events, so the crystal ball is still a bit murky about how quick the pick up of economic activity will be.

By the end of the fourth quarter, hopefully the worldwide efforts to produce a vaccine for Covid-19 will be producing results, and mass production and distribution of it will mean that real control of the situation has been regained. That should be a shot in the arm for consumer confidence.

And we had thought that the biggest problem we’d have this year was a presidential election. We set up imaginary barriers between nations, but the virus has shown us how connected we all are. That connectedness enables business, but it also lets diseases spread, destroying the ability to trade while showing how much we depend on everyone else. As the Sorting Hat said, “We must unite … or we’ll crumble from within.” This pandemic will be almost unimaginably disruptive, but we might be able to learn something from the experience. Please keep healthy.

Geoff Canham, Editor, TBD San Francisco



Design consultant: Katie Levine of Vallance, Inc.