#BeyondCOVID Town Hall - ASIA 03
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Dylan Brady - Conductor (Owner) at Decibel Architecture
Richard Henderson - Founder & CEO at R-Co Brand
John Jourden - Design Director at Gensler
Yaron Kanor - Creative Director at Studio Y. & Co.
Ophenia Liang - Director & Co-founder at Digital Crew
David O'Driscoll - CEO of Brightgreen
Catherine Shaw - Architecture and Design Writer and Author
Betsy Sweat - Head of Asia Pacific at Restoration Hardware
Oren Tatcher - Principal at OTC Planning & Design
Nothing replaces standing in a room with a chair and touching it and sitting in it, but if you cannot do that, and you have to get the message across, you have to think creatively - Catherine Shaw
How are we going to measure up to world up to the world that we've already designed? - Richard Henderson
I do not believe that leadership in most businesses are capable of handling this reshaping on their own. They need other thought leaders and they need to understand that the power of change is within all of us - Richard Henderson
People, humans, are creative. We just need to have new imaginations around us to help us think about a new dimension and not be fearful of it - Richard Henderson
We're so fortunate as designers to be in this place where it becomes cathartic, where once someone sees an idea, sees the potential of something, they can't wait to get more of it. That's the elixir that creative people have. Not only do they have it themselves, but they can actually bring an audience. Like the Pied Piper they can bring a whole team of people along on the basis of new ideas - Richard Henderson
A return on imagination is just as important as return on investment - Richard Henderson
I think one of the big issues is architects, designers, engineers, are all operating in their separate little towers - that has to change - Catherine Shaw
If you can't solve the need of somebody who has spend control, they're not really going to talk to you - Mark Bergin
Collaboration and forcing people to bump into one another is a big part of how we break down some of the silos within offices and it's that very same thing that we're all now saying we can't do - Dylan Brady
It's not necessarily just answering the questions for right now, it's making sure that things are robust enough for the next problem - John Jourden
Hopefully COVID-19 has kneaded our muscles a little bit so that we can actually stretch enough to deal with climate change - Dylan Brady
One of the things I 'like' about the positivity of COVID is that I don't believe, and I think many people don't believe, that we are ever going to go back to the way we were before - whether it's the way we work, the way we live, the way we treat each other - Betsy Sweat
We're accelerating to things that we wanted to get to, in the guise of disruptive change - Mark Bergin
Mark Bergin 00:00
Welcome to the Asia Town Hall from the Design Exec Club. I'm Mark Bergin, the founder of DRIVENxDESIGN Award Programs, and joining me is an incredible panel of experts from digital marketing, architecture, design writers, furniture, branding, and also product design. So we're going to go through and talk about the Beyond COVID period - how are we seeing people rebounding? What are their strategies and how are they accelerating into re-imagining what the future is? Catherine Shaw I'm going to throw to you first here, as your role as a design writer with Wallpaper and Metropolis, tell me a little bit about what you're seeing from people who didn't get a chance to go to Milano and actually show their products or those that are trying to work out how to introduce new products into the marketplace. Because it's a tale of two markets, isn't it? There's the China market which is active and working as people would expect and then there's the rest of the world which is probably more of a digital release. What are you seeing there from the people that you're writing stories about?
Catherine Shaw 01:06
Well, I think everyone's scrambling to keep up and watching what's happening in this part of the world as an example of what is likely to happen in Europe and America. So the people who are well set up on their digital platforms, they're the ones who are doing just fine. But even they are having to think quite creatively about taking that a step forward and really making that communication seamless, really, really smooth. And at the same time, I think what's interesting is there is a response to the attitude out there of the people who the message is being sent to. So the people who are responding really well I think, are understanding that people want to receive the information maybe in a slightly different way. It has to have a much more down to earth and authentic message. The way it's presented also has to feel personal. So I've seen a number of clients, architects and designers in particular, who are actually sending out samples in ways that they wouldn't have before. I mean, my home office is like Piccadilly Circus, there are deliveries all the time. Whether it's a new kind of look book or a brochure or a miniature version. Some designers when they're talking about a particular project, and the big issue for me is understanding the tactility of a space - what does it really feel like? You know, some of them are actually sending me a mood board, a specially designed mood board that I can have in front of me, so when I'm having a Zoom call with them, they will have the mood board with them as well and they'll be saying, right look at this and this is how it would work. Nothing replaces standing in a room with a chair and touching it and sitting in it, but if you cannot do that, and you have to get the message across, you have to think creatively about how you're spreading that message. So for me, I think there's a much more bespoke approach, more tailored, definitely more videos. You know, it's not that difficult to do a good video on your iPhone. So even for spaces and trying to get across lighting in a space from the morning to the afternoon to evening and how those colours and design would work - that works. I mean, just one quick example, I have to go and see an art gallery that's opened - Emanuel Perrotin has opened a new gallery in Hong Kong. Now, for various reasons I can't actually speak to the architect on site, it's Andre Fu, he is a Hong Kong architect, so I will be walking through the site with my phone on video and we'll be talking as though he's with me. Now that works because we know each other extremely well. So everyone I think is kind of adjusting and trying out different ways, seeing what works, some things work for some clients and some just won't work at all, and others are relying on delivering large packages... and they all work to some extent.
Mark Bergin 04:53
So what I want to do there is I want to throw across to Ophenia here, because Ophenia you're digital marketing expertise, well you've had some projects I've seen where you've actually been doing phone based shopper experiences in shopping centres, so that people can actually see products in action. And so you've got somebody who's a buyer, who's enthusiastic, and I think that goes to part of what I've seen that Catherine's doing, is that she's talking about how to use video to connect people as another layer of that personalised digital experience? Tell us a bit about what you've been doing.
Ophenia Liang 05:32
So Mark, thank-you. I think what you were referring to was live streaming. So, our team just launched an end of financial year campaign for Oroton. It's a designer fashion brand from Australia. So what we did is we invited multiple influences into different Oroton offline stores and then do live streaming and showcasing - literally it's a sales activity online. We are showing the products and then it's showcasing to the followers of those influencers. It's nothing new in Asia or in China, I'm sure for the for the speakers who live on that side of the world. Live streaming, it's becoming a very common activity, even an entertainment for people in mainland China already, so every night the growing middle class they will have the TV on watching the favourite show but at the same time using their phone on some live streaming and it's an entertainment. It could be people selling directly from farm to you and showing you the farm - some of the superstar live streamers make millions of sales per night. It's new in Australia but it's not new in China. I think Because of COVID, I know nowadays actually a lot of people are sick of talking about COVID anymore, because they're overwhelmed with too much news about that and it just goes past people's minds. But, it actually sped up a lot of adaptation for digital assets or digital platforms, such as buying groceries online becoming a habit for older demographics, especially in Asia, who because of COVID have had to stay at home and they have to adjust to that and now the habit is there to stay. With the ecommerce increasing in Australia- even though people are sitting at home, they still want to shop and we're still getting inquiries across all the countries that we are in about digital marketing. So we see intent, we see clients are eager to get back in the market and do something about it, but they are hesitant in spending the normal amount of budget because of the political environments across all the countries. So I think at this moment, the world is not out of COVID in terms of the actual cases, but a lot of countries like Australia or China are operating in the new normal space already, where business confidence is back, but actually there are a lot of political reasons holding them back as well. We're not completely out of it but we're on to some new challenges.
Mark Bergin 08:42
I think what we're likely to go see is that down spend that people had on, say, brand building campaigns, they're gonna wind up being more tactical based spends, working out how to make sure they can get that product experience into Catherine's hands, or get it into Dylan's hands, or get it to John, to make sure that in an asynchronous world they're creating that synchronous moment. So I think we're going to go see people creating awareness, being more tactical to make sure that people are able to go deliver either the business-to-business or business-to-consumer campaigns is going to increase because, it's funny, we're spending more time looking at screens now, but a lot of people have actually lowered their digital spend and that doesn't make a lot of sense. I know with trade shows, you know, we've got our NOT Milano show that we go do, because there aren't all of these interior design shows around the world. That budget spending is probably going to be better put into the digital enablement that Catherine was talking, and what you've been talking about there. Richard Henderson, I want to throw across to you because you've had some clients who have actually turned and gone from zero to hero from a pivot point of view, digital provodores. I know when I was speaking to our box manufacturer for our trophy boxes he said April was two and a half times what the previous year was because everyone now needs something put it in the box. Tell me a little bit about the digital food service that you'd help get online right at the beginning of the pandemic change.
Richard Henderson 10:20
Thanks, Mark. Yeah, we did speak about this in earlier presentation that this client who had cafes and restaurants, basically a baker. The cafe and restaurants obviously market went he had a couple of hundred staff and he basically pivoted vertically within a week and started an online business where he is now providing an interface between the wholesaler and the retailer. Now, his big dream is, in 2024, to be another Amazon in the food market. Now that all happened from the basis of he found a crisis and his pivoting was basically from a humanistic point of view that he really want to look out for these people. So this is one example. What I wanted to touch on a little bit, following what Catherine was talking about, is that I think the big question happening in everyone's mind is, how are we going to measure up to world up to the world that we've already designed? Because everything's changing. And my specific interest is in brand and cultural change, corporate change particularly, and how are corporations going to keep in contact with the people? How are they going to contain a humanistic approach, which Ophenia was just talking about, where it's going to the street and being authentic? That's going to be a really big challenge. Now, I work right in the heart of the city in Melbourne, I'm surrounded by corporates, I'm at 101, which is an epicentre of corporate culture, there's no one in the building. What is going to happen to that human capital? Those people with their minds and all their commitments they have, how they're going to not necessarily reinvent, but how they're going to reshape themselves into a new dynamic? I think that's a fascinating social issue as well as an incredible business issue. I'm sort of consumed about that. But I also think Mark picked it up on a comment that he actually quoted in a previous conversation in a USA Town Hall where he mentioned the word inertia. I think there is a lot of inertia and one of the great things a designer does, and I've spent my whole life in design, is problem solving. How do you move something on a blank white sheet of paper? The tyranny of the white page... the tyranny of having to do something is something which is absolutely scary for a lot of people. Designers, fortunately, have their processes already inbuilt in them; their way of moving through a jam, so I think in some respects we're very fortunate have that capacity, but we need to encourage our clients to take the first step, to start looking at the world slightly differently. My big issue is I do not believe that leadership in most businesses are capable of handling this reshaping on their own. They need other thought leaders around it and they need to understand that actually the power of change is within all of us. I think it's a very, very deep philosophical aspect. We are creative. People, humans, are creative. We just need to have new imaginations around us to help us think about a new dimension and not be fearful of it. So when you when you go back to the original question Mark of the pivot: what my client did, he didn't freeze, he didn't start selling up, he didn't let start letting these people go. He actually reinvented by talking with someone like ourselves and giving him confidence that he could actually reinvent himself entirely. We created a new brand name for him, created a new identity for him, we helped him with his website, we've helped him articulate it, we gave him pictures - you know, a picture's worth 1000 words. And now actually, in three months, that business he had is his old way of life; his new way of life is consumed with creating a new dynamic. We're so fortunate as designers to be in this place where it becomes cathartic, where once someone sees an idea, sees the potential of something, they can't wait to get more of it. That's the elixir that creative people have. Not only do they have it themselves, but they can actually bring an audience, like the Pied Piper they can bring a whole team of people along on the basis of new ideas. So, just finishing off my little spiel there, you know, my mantra is a return on imagination is just as important as return on investment... the two ROIs. It is my trademark, it's what I firmly believe and I think now there is never a better time for imagination to flourish because where else does everyone go?
Mark Bergin 15:09
Yaron I want to throw across to you- Oh yes, sorry-
Catherine Shaw 15:12
Sorry, Mark, before I leave, could I just respond very quickly to that because I think that's absolutely fascinating. What I think has to really change is within our design industry, we keep talking about ourselves as designers, but actually designers don't operate in a vacuum. We need to start speaking a lot more to engineers, anthropologists, we need to be speaking to scientists, you know, people dealing with materials. We need to open up and we need to understand that so much more. The engineering ingenuity of understanding how air conditioning works within a space before those air conditioner units were put in the cheapest best space, you know, don't block the view. Now we have to think differently. I think one of the big issues is architects, designers, engineers, are all operating in their separate little towers - that has to change. We need to be understanding digital experts, and that all has to come together. That's the way that we're able to adjust. Because you're not just redesigning your office, you have to redesign the lobby, and you have to redesign the way the elevators work. You cannot do that if we're- you know, we have to think creatively so that we can allow people to pivot quickly.
Oren Tatcher 16:35
Sorry Mark, I don't mean to steal it, but just before Catherine leaves I want to come back to you just to add one more thing: the design task doesn't stop at the lobby, let's remember that too. You make a very good point, but just to bring it into my realm as well, we need to think how that relates to, let's say, the urban mobility system, or urban space in general. And I think some of the issues of you know what life is going to be like, after this, is absolutely about that. So the integration you're talking about, as I said, doesn't end at the front door of the building, it really extends far beyond that. Sorry Mark, back to you.
Mark Bergin 17:16
No, no, no, it's open mic for everybody so that you can chime in when you can. And Catherine, you've almost given me- I feel like I've got a checkerboard in front of me, because based on that, I know, I'm going to move my piece here, here, here, here. That is such an awesome thread there. When I began the DRIVENxDESIGN Award Programs, I began them to celebrate the commissioners, because I think Watergate told us to follow the money. If you can't solve the need of somebody who's got spend control, they're not really going to talk to you. So designers are one part of the business challenge, and there's going to be an engineering aspect to it. Now as we go through this call here we're going to go and talk about some public spaces with Oren, we are then going to be talking with David O'Driscoll about UVC in those public spaces. But now what I want to do is I actually want to go and have a word with Yaron here, because about two years ago, Yaron was giving some briefs to go reimagine what some hospitality venues were, and one of them was a really large scale beer hall here in Melbourne, and he also was given a very intimate restaurant. So I'm interested, you know, when when you got those briefs, those two projects have never existed before. And now we're actually looking at those sorts of projects and it's time for them to go and actually be reimagined. It's time for them to say well how we go get the density up of people, how to we make sure from a separate sanitary perspective that they're there? Is that the type of thing that you're confident you're going to be called in to go actually reconfigure the space, or do you think that that's going to be the next set of projects that you're going to come to? So do you want to give me some insights there Yaron?
Yaron Kanor 19:21
It's interesting in the last few months because I think we're still in the transition, so nothing is definite yet. I always like to take opinions, but it's still a delicate way to take sides on it I would say. I personally think the human race have faced bigger crises and we had less technology or, you know, hospitals and what we have today to overcome it. If you look in the history, this is just recapping history a little bit, but the human race overcame those and went back to normal. So I think also thinking that everything is going to change is probably, it is a bit too early to go to that way. It's only three months has passed since it has hit us, so definitely it keeps processing and what I did see with my current clients is there's ones who wait to see what happens and the ones that don't want to stay put and want to think forward or at least to be developing new ideas. And when I'm now developing those new ideas, then yes, those questions arise: do we separate the tables more? Do we create a private rooms? But if we all go to the basics and what human nature is about - socialising, it's something that I hope would not be compromised at the end of the day. I mean, otherwise, we'll find our sanity probably goes in other directions. So I think it's all about the right balance act. It's not about ignoring it, but it's definitely making people feel comfortable with what they're coming into and that's what you will want to make sure in terms of experience. So it's still in a transition, but I still don't see how in one go, everything has to really change just because of that. I think things has to constantly change and evolve, and like you said Catherine, I definitely believe in combining all the ideas and different disciplines to create something new. I think it was a good wake up call for everyone from design, from living and environment. So I see that more as an opportunity to probably raise those principles that in the past just flew on the side. So that's what I see from that - we can lift other things that probably just a bit overlooked and people didn't care about. Also focusing on the local, like local matters, you know, using local materials and helping the local communities. That's what I'm thinking: if we make a project, how can it all be built from local trades? That's where I think it's more about assisting each other now, as a community. It's kind of bringing back to the community. It's funny, a couple of years ago, I started to consult also for the Vicinity Centres. They're a big shopping centre, probably the second biggest in Australia. One of the things we developed for them is reimagining what the shopping centre is about. In short, because it's a good anecdote, if you really look back in history about what the original shopping centre invented it the US, the guy who invented it definitely didn't mean for it to become what it is today. He said if he knew that's what would happen he would not do it. How things evolved to being a shopping centre, instead of helping the communities, which was the original idea. It is actually separated. You know, you had those big things come into the city and and distance everyone else and now the trying to reconnect. So I think the reconnecting is the main thing for me
Mark Bergin 24:18
So Yaron thank-you for giving us that because- oh I think we're saying goodbye to Catherine, you need to go and actually pick up some courier parcels is that right?
Catherine Shaw 24:26
Yes, sorry about that. This is very interesting, i'd love to stay. Thanks guys, bye.
Mark Bergin 24:35
So Yaron, I suppose my challenge point there is if Beethoven had have known that eventually EDM music would come out from his 'DUN DUN DUN DUN' then he probably wouldn't have done an either. So I think I take that idea of somebody who looks back and says 'oh, my intention got bastardised', so I'm going to put that to one side. But I want to go from the boutique size studio, and I want to go across to you john Jordan from the from the Gensler mothership, you know, you've got this massive, behemoth organisation. What I think's interesting is the way that you're seeing projects - so for our viewers, John is normally based in Shanghai, but for the last few months has actually been based on the west coast of the US is that right?
John Jourden 25:23
Mark Bergin 25:24
Stranded, so you stranded there, but you're still managing the projects that you were working on in out of Shanghai and throughout China, and you've also got some others in other parts of the world. What are you seeing there that's actually been the change over these couple of months where people have been reimagining and also trying to go and rebound from what was an interruption to business?
John Jourden 25:49
Well, I think what we've seen from Gensler- someone mentioned it earlier, maybe in the pregame, you know, Betsy mentioned about the kind of resiliency of having that infrastructure, and I think as a bigger company we've had the ability to move into this digital space quite quickly, and working remotely with our teams, and also offering our clients ideas about how to change their business through this digital space. I think on the ground when we consider what's happened in the United States and abroad, there's been a tremendous kind of slowdown, which puts us in a precarious position in terms of things that are out there, but mostly a massive slowdown for a large majority of our global business. Maybe you can give me the question one more time? That was my preamble...
Mark Bergin 27:07
So I'm interested to see how people have made those immediate responses. You know, for the built space these are longitudinal projects - their lifespan is measured in quarters, it's not measured in days. And so I think if I look at what Catherine was talking about, there's a much shorter rise time and completion time, the same for Ophenia and the same for Richard with what he was talking about, but for built space projects, things take a lot longer and there's also changes. I know we're going to go across to Dylan to take us home at the very end - we're going to talk about a workspace which has had to actually reconsider what the distancing is? What are you seeing for the projects? Are they 'keep going as we planned them', or is there a reconfiguration, reconsideration whether they should be doing the project or at all, or new opportunities? What are you finding?
John Jourden 27:59
In the China market, it's been pretty stable relative to making sweeping changes. I think we've seen clients that have adjusted, maybe financially their game plan, but in terms of building-in a lot of the thinking around how the workplace might change, I don't think there has been particularly massive changes. I think there's been a lot of conversations around systems and buildings and things like that, in terms of moving error, you know, strategies around security of people checking in. I mean, prior to this, you know, we had substantial projects on the boards, which have moved forward without much of a stoppage. You know, there were some competitions that that have come in where clients are being a little more shrewd in terms of how they want to spend their money, especially in terms of some of the bigger moves about how they want to spend their money with some of the private clients. I think developers in general have been become a little more- there's definitely been a slow down in that part of the market.
Mark Bergin 29:17
So what's really interesting there is we've tried to do a diagnostic of 'has there been dramatic change state' and there hasn't been dramatic change state, so that's why it's a bit hard to answer it, because it's not like you've said, 'oh, there's a cliff and people have fallen off. They're not doing this. They're not doing that.' So I'm taking that as that the momentum behind the projects is based carrying on, there's some financial considerations which are going to be about slowness of knowing when money comes available, but that's actually steady as she goes, which is which is really interesting. So what I want to do now is actually go across to you Oren because your work in transport and infrastructure is huge, but I'm interested with those projects there- Paul Priestman, on the European and UK Town Hall we did two week's ago, was talking about airports as been known as safe spaces that people went to and then we were talking about going through security. So we started to look at airports, they were going to be very safe spaces, but now we're with strangers who might infect us, and then we've got a problem. What's happened in your world with infrastructure projects?
Oren Tatcher 30:28
Well, as I was touching on in the beginning, when we had our pre talk, it's a bit of a- it's two different worlds. I mean, I haven't heard this idea that the airports are safe spaces. It's kind of interesting though. In Hong Kong, we had a plane land yesterday with 26 infected people, I think they came from Pakistan, and you have to sort of wonder if that's a kind of safe space that people are talking about. Without mincing words, I think aviation as we've known it in the last 10 years is not coming back anytime soon - I don't mean months, and some people will try to be optimistic to say, two or three years, but I think that's highly optimistic. Let us say there is a vaccine, there is effective treatment, there could be ways that people are convinced to get on planes again. I just think that there is going to- between first of all the time it takes to get to that point with a pandemic, economic recovery and the fact that people- I just had dinner last night, the friend who said, like many of us they've never been gone so long without getting on a plane and I'm quite liking it, I don't think I'll be flying as much. Again whether business it required or not, I think even people's personal choices regarding their holiday time may change as a result or may take years to go back to where they were before. So aviation is not good and I think anybody who has an illusion about that is fooling themselves, and unfortunately, from the design business perspective, we were in the middle of two competitions in Europe, airport terminals in Europe. One has been indefinitely suspended and the other one they've pushed back by four months, I think that will be probably suspended as well. I think architects who focus on airports are having a really hard time now, to be to be fair. Transportation... the transportation side I think is very, very interesting to watch, because that's really in a way the intersection of everything that we're seeing. On the one hand, you have the fact that it's exactly the kind of dense transient in place where you're surrounded by strangers in close proximity that people now want to avoid, and it's going to be a tall order to convince people that it's safe to do that again - I have to say is a footnote, in Hong Kong people have never stopped doing it, I mean I ride the MTR all the time, it's not a problem, but I think in many places in the world it's going to be seen as a problem. And that's also the world that obviously will be- the bricks and mortar that the urban transport brings us to, you know, so as long as bricks and mortar is going to be a victim there's going to be a big shift to digital as a result of the situation, the systems that bring people to those under the current Old World infrastructure are also going to be challenged. Now it may be a good thing because if you consider how many cities are under invested in the public transportation systems, maybe fewer people riding trains will be welcomed by the people who continue to do so. I'm sure other people will talk about it and you read about it everywhere, the future of offices, the future of bricks and mortar retail, the future of urban space, or even inner city living, I think is a bit up in the air now in the parts of the world which are the most affected. Less so here in Hong Kong or in China, maybe other places, but I think that Europe and certainly the US will be facing some very interesting times in terms of how all these things work together and how a shift- I don't think that the office is dead, I don't think that physical shopping is dead, but there will be something that will be a bit different. And so my path, which is how do I bring people and how do I move people between those different places in a way that feels safe... well I think it's a bit early to say. That's the honest truth, I think.
Mark Bergin 35:35
Thank-you Oren. So we're going to go across the David O'Driscoll in a moment and we're going to go talk a UVC lights and sanitising spaces. Then we're going to go across to Dylan and talk about the reconfiguration of a major office space that he's working on and then I'm going to come home with you Betsy, and we're going to be talking there about Restoration Hardware, and some furniture. So Dave, if you can just pop yourself off mute that, that's fantastic. So Brightgreen, known for your fantastic fittings and fixtures for LED lights, but you've got a project that you've been working on around UVC. For the people who are watching who aren't familiar with UVC, I've been talking about it for months. It's actually a way that you can sanitise either bacterial or viral loads by using UV light. The only problem is it not only kills the bacteria, it kills the human cells as well. So you can expose humans to UVC. So you've got some solutions that you've been working on, you've been doing some trials, how far do you think the horizon is before we start to see in those public spaces UVC which has safety systems in there and is able to make sure that it's safe for humans. What's the horizon?
David O'Driscoll 36:52
Look UVC is very well established, it has been for the last 50 years to kill most pathogens, particularly as you say, is the safe piece of it. We've got trials now at the moment with some cruise ships in Denmark, some offices and elevators in the US, and we're working with some schools and supermarkets here in Australia. Those trials are going ahead as we're speaking, we've just had an independent assessment of a case study that we just published recently that showed that we ended up with about a 99.2% kill rate on the test pathogens that we were testing with and that correlates really nicely with a recent study from Princeton that shows the actual COVID disease itself and matching up with the same pathogens that we used in our trial. So look, the point there, how do you use it, use it safely, and where does it belong? And we actually thought originally, perhaps this is a pivot off to the hotspots where it would normally be occurring like hospitals, but it turns out that hospitals are already very process driven and have good safety procedures in place. If you look at the behaviour of the spaces that are occupied, a lot of them are in Australia because we still have active active schools and various other spaces and in those spaces, those behaviours aren't there. We're not looking at process rule driven places, so what we're trying to do is remove that human element by automating the kill off and cleanliness in those spaces. Even the cleaning itself, with a good manual cleaning you can use high pressure hydrogen peroxide to steam up a space, but that requires a lot of retrofit for venting and adequate cleaning every day after a clean. We know that mechanical cleaning just isn't sufficient because people don't cover the full area. So UVC plugs that that gap in that you get a good coverage and it also removes the human failure. So this is actually, for us at the beginning of the year, I think Catherine and Richard both spoke to the level of flux and lack of direction that was in the market. We definitely saw our clients - architects, engineers, sustainability engineers, really struggling with what the new world looked like. It was pretty regular for us to talk to one member in a big engineering company and they were quite committed to a new idea, only to be told the next day that they'd change their minds and that flux seemed to be quite regular, but now that seems to have settled down quite a bit and we see that straightening out - there's a bit more confidence there even if the adaptability isn't as pervasive as we'd like it to be with them, coming from a design mindset. Even before COVID kicked up, there was a trend there around healthy buildings, and that's something that we were just designing a new system for - the covered air quality and various other aspects of healthy buildings. Actually, specifically to make the WELL Certification. If you're aware, it will be easier to implement. There is a study of the design process with architects and engineers, and there's a lot of blockages there, and knowledge costing and commissioning their system. So we already had a system ready to go that was already tracking the activity of individuals, their behaviour within the spaces and mitigating a lot of environmental factors that go into creating those healthy building. It was a quick pivot for us to use those same tracking and control systems to control the UVC and get rid of that risk. It is the new mindset. I think I read in Harvard Business Review a few days ago that we're moving from a focus on healthy buildings to buildings that fight disease. I think that's a complimentary part of you what the wellness phenomenon has been about in people's personal lives, but certainly within the built environment. There's definitely a shift in the perspective of people in terms of their concern of how they're using these environments. Particularly with the discussions we've got in Australia and the return to workspaces. It isn't just the practicality of it, I think it's also the confidence of use within those system. Whether they're process driven systems, or the designer space or whatever technology which is the angle we're taking, or the communication aspect of it, I think those all come together to just give a practical outcome but also to return that level of confidence so that people can actually fundamentally enjoy that environment that they're there in.
Mark Bergin 41:34
And that that's a great insight there, that there is smarts as far as buildings are coming along, UVC is part of it but it's also around the overall management and monitoring systems that are in there. Dylan I want to go across to you as a Platinum WELL and Platinum LEED architect, big round of applause everyone - it's pretty hard to get get Platinum WELL and Platinum LEAD, so congratulations on that in your past buildings. But then, what's happening on the office project that you're working on at the moment, which is you know, if you're coming to the end of what 12 month build and COVID happens do you reconfigure desks, do you reconfigure petitions? And then what's happening with your projects in Shanghai and also in Ho Chi Minh city? Are they moving along? Are they still in let states? How chaotic is your world?
Dylan Brady 42:28
Oh it's a healthy Mandelbrot version of chaos, where no matter how closely you look at it, it's just as detailed and no matter how far you zoom out, it appears the same. It's really interesting Dave to hear your kind of insights there coming from a technology position and pivoting from a healthy to a healing building - a building that doesn't just not make you sick but makes you better. The project you're talking about here in Melbourne, we're finishing 7,500sqm of a new corporate headquarters, blending the ivory tower and the coalface of project teams and management into a new three floor fit out. You can't shift that train at the end of the day so close to the end, but to their credit and to the credit of the team that we're working with, which includes James Calder - he's now at ERA-co - and his group Calder Consulting who we were just talking about the future of the office with, we designed the space to be over and above what the requirements for WELL and LEED were giving us. There's a lot of, I like to call hand sanity, I found myself typing new process rules for our own office and I realised we must ensure 'hand sanity'. There's a lot of breathing room in those places. It's a very interesting space to be in because collaboration and forcing people to bump into one another is a big part of how we break down some of the silos within offices and it's that very same thing that we're all now saying we can't do. And so there's this kind of classic problem of collaboration that needs to be addressed. Mark, you're relatively familiar with the plan, and hopefully we'll be able to make it all a bit more public soon, but we've done a lot of our thinking in this space as journey thinking. It's a construction company, they're very, very siloed. They really like tunnelling-is-tunnelling-is-tunnelling-is-tunnelling and building-is-buildings-is-buildings-is-building, and because there's so many common threads through what they're trying to do, it was really about making sure that they were able to visualise and see what other people were doing and have that in their mix. But it's not necessarily that, there's no lick and sniff panels in the office, like what's going on in this engine, it's much more about making sure people pass by and circulate within eyeshot of other groups and see that as collaboration spaces is being located along journeys, rather than necessarily all pushed off into the side. In terms of the project we're working on in Shanghai at the moment, which is another targeting Platinum WELL, Platinum LEED, but also targeting a BREEAM score, hopefully to challenge what we've done here in the pixel building. Hearing what John's talking about, there's a lot of inertia in the Chinese business sense, even in the Platinum LEED Platinum WELL project that we delivered, the very idea hot-desking or a sleep pod - I mean a sleep pod in an office building in China that you need for the points, and you could just see everybody going 'if I go into that sleep pod, I will be sacked', because I'm coming to work to work not to sleep. I've got to get that balance, right. There's been very much this kind of cultural perspective we need to bring on it around focus and purpose, rather than necessarily rest and change and that's been quite interesting. Ho Chi Minh is just rolling along, Vietnam has had no more than 200 cases all up and zero deaths and they've just got the right mix of slightly undemocratic government and ability to roll out instructions to people, a long stretched out country so that they can lock down parts of it quite easily, and they seem to have reached that point. The biggest issue we've got with our Ho Chi Minh client at the moment is that there's a fear of the unknown. So the hotel lobby needs big walls in between it and the office lobby and the private residence lobby and all that sort of stuff. The very circulatory retail thinking that you want to enliven the bottom of a tall tower with, is being closed down into silos of 'you will only get through the door when you have got a pass', and so we're like, well, that's not going to operate very well in a human sense. It might very well be the best way to control people, but not the best way to deliver the right outcome.
Mark Bergin 47:38
Thanks for that Dylan. Now I know that you need to disappear and I think Yaron you also need to disappear. But Betsy, I want you to go bring us home. Thank-you for your contributions there, sorry that we've been a little delayed.
John Jourden 47:57
Can I just say one thing about what Dylan suggested. I think what's fascinating right now as well is urbanism in general in buildings over time have always responded to pandemics. I think the thing that Dylan touched which I think is really important is this idea of creating something that's resilient and flexible. And I think that's something that needs to be highlighted. As we move forward into the future, it's not necessarily just answering the questions for right now. It's making sure that things are robust enough for the next problem. Especially we don't want to lose sight of global warming, and the things that are actively contributing to these outcomes that we don't want. So I think those are important things that lead into and that motivate us designers to do something.
Dylan Brady 48:46
At risk of making myself late for my next meeting, when we've been designing hospitals - hospitals are a classic space that tend to be designed out of the book for what we know today. Actually, designing hospitals so that you can change the way the functions shift and actually rewrite- so with hospitals you typically have a little bit of leftover that you call 'soft space' and you can build out into that as you need more beds or less beds. But in reality the entirety of a hospital needs to be soft space. You need to be able to come and reconfigure transmission controls, pandemic controls, all of these kinds of different layers that need to be built into and out of a hospital as our knowledge changes or as the situation radically changes outside us. Hopefully COVID-19 has kneaded our muscles a little bit so that we can actually stretch enough to deal with climate change, because if you think COVID-19 is the be-all-end-all, wait until the sea rises like seven metres and, and we've got 400 million refugees every going what the fu-
Betsy Sweat 49:56
How am I possibly going to talk after that Dylan!?
Mark Bergin 50:21
So Betsy, see if you can bring us home here.
Betsy Sweat 50:24
Actually, it's a it's a great place for us to stop as well. One of the things I 'like' about the positivity of COVID is that I don't believe, and I think many people don't believe, that we are ever going to go back to the way we were before. Whether it's the way we work, the way we live, the way we treat each other. What I love in this industry is that it has fostered great innovation. And when we look at what we're doing within our age as a company, both Oren and Catherine talked about materials We are looking at it as the company that can figure out how performance exists in today's market, and how to move into the next generation of product performance is going to win a game as long as you're designing beautifully as well. So, a lot of what we're fielding in inquiries now and, John, I'd love for you to stop by one of the galleries on the west coast so you can see - some of the work we're doing is how do they sterilise? Whether it's David's UV process, how do materials survive? And whether those are the actual materials - the marbles, the woods, but it's mainly the finishes on top - the Euro things, the nitrocellulose. Those things break down under a myriad of conditions. We're already seeing people sanitising with materials that are way too harsh for the current finishes and the current base material. So RH is spending a lot of time doing existing testing, upgrading our facilities to do that on the fly. But really, it's about working with those next generation product designers to bring in. And it's scientists, it's surface chemists, its engineers, to talk about what are the materials which are most forgiving and which can be used in the most beautiful design? So it's one way that RH is actually making a contribution. But also I wanted to talk about a little bit about what John talked about in terms of flexibility. So our business within the contract arena, has suffered, like most of you out there. We've been ploughing forward with a lot of big hospitality projects, particularly in Asia Pacific, and a lot of those have gone on hold. So we are happy now to see a lot of release of what's happening in the hospitality, where people who have been pent up from being inside for a long period of time, are now wanting to be outside, particularly in places as Oren knows as small as Hong Kong apartments. So we are seeing a tremendous expansion in the hospitality industry, in F&B, in outdoor spaces. Converting of indoor spaces to really interesting COVID friendly social distancing spaces, where design is really what's flourishing there, so that's good to see. And the other piece of it is really about how, and I think Hong Kong having been here for 27 years now is a place that respects other people. And it's how we treat each other, how the community sees each other. Oren was talking about being on the MTR. We all are on every day. I can take a picture of a packed MTR and there is not a single face mask-less person. Everyone will continue to be part of that saving of our community, that protecting of one from another. So I don't think it's going to change, and Mark honestly, I think it has done us a service by helping us to look much more as human beings to each other, but also how to take it to the next level as companies.
Mark Bergin 54:10
Betsy I agree there. What I'm finding really interesting is that we're accelerating to things that we wanted to get to, in the guise of disruptive change. And, and that's very interesting that there's a whole range of plans which are actually being brought forward. Ophenia in your world people are beginning to use digital more. Oren you're seeing that, okay, there's some projects have been put on hold, but they'll also be some reconfiguration in there - John, likewise for you. And then for Dave, to finding out new product channels like UVC and intelligent building control and monitoring. These things were in the pipeline, and actually they're accelerating up, which to me is what has to happen. We've got a moment to go and interrupt the status quo and that moment doesn't happen that often and now is the time to actually work out how to go do it. You know, it must be tragic if you've had a project you've been working on - I know that some of the airports around the world that those projects have had consultants on them for years, they don't need that extra capacity as you said Oren, they going to be shut down, there's a loss there. But there's also other opportunities to go and actually work out where there is gain and how to accelerate into that. So panelists, I'm always humbled to go have your attention. We've had a few people who have had to go, and that's interesting that we're now seeing people have actually got less time for these calls and they're having to go get to other things, which says to me that the market is healthy, that they are getting very busy again, so I do appreciate your time. And viewers, we'll be back in a month's time with with the next Asia Town Hall but we also have the EUK, we've got the US and the Australian one. Please keep having a look at them because these gems from these experts are fantastic. Thank you for time everybody.
Hosted by: Mark Bergin
Podcast production: Pat Daly
Show notes: Lucy Grant