As the COVID-19 pandemic persisted in 2021, Healthcare Design sought to discover how its ongoing effects were influencing design work and project priorities. The 2021 COVID-19 Industry Survey was launched online in August as a follow-up to its 2020 iteration. Open to any active industry member, the survey yielded more than 300 responses; around 50 percent of respondents identified as architects or engineers, with owners, interior designers, builders, and consultants all represented.

The survey first explored how pandemic-related work has continued since mid-2020, with identifying solutions to remain operational during a patient surge the top choice from 43 percent of respondents. Other common responses include specifying products/updating spaces to enhance flexibility (38 percent) and to enhance infection prevention and cleanability (37 percent). However, 22 percent of industry members said they weren’t personally involved in a COVID-19 response over the previous 12 months.

Additionally, when asked if the delta variant was influencing an uptick in pandemic-related work at the time of its surge in late summer, only about 15 percent of respondents indicated that it was.

Regarding projects in early planning stages prior to the coronavirus, the survey asked how they fared over the past year. Thirty-four percent of respondents said most projects moved forward as planned or were slightly adapted and/or delayed, while 30 percent reported most were slightly adapted and/or delayed and some were put on hold for at least a year.

As for projects already in progress prior to COVID-19, responses were even more favorable, with 44 percent saying most moved forward as planned or were slightly adapted and/or delayed and, next closest, 26 percent reporting most projects moved forward as planned.

Yet when asked to consider how new healthcare project work progressed over the past 12 months, respondents’ experiences varied across the board, with 35 percent saying project work remained at pre-pandemic levels. It was then a near-even split between all remaining options: 23 percent said work dipped slightly compared to business before COVID-19, 22 percent reported project work escalated, and 20 percent experienced project work fall considerably.

However, when industry members were asked to project three years from now, respondents were mostly optimistic, as 35 percent expect project work to exceed pre-pandemic levels and 31 percent anticipate it will remain at pre-pandemic levels.

Respondents also identified the biggest challenges they’re facing on new projects today, with 79 percent reporting inflated construction costs tied to material and labor shortages as a primary concern. Other issues topping the list were developing solutions effective for today’s operations but supportive of future flexibility (38 percent) and lack of funding due to provider revenue loss during COVID-19 (37 percent).

Finally, when looking forward, respondents were asked to consider major goals healthcare organizations will wish to achieve through new projects in a post-pandemic world. Sixty-five percent chose designing for future flexibility and adaptability as the top goal, with implementing infection control strategies, technology adoption, and addressing resiliency/identifying solutions to remain operational in a similar crisis rounding out the top three choices.

To view the corresponding charts for this article, go here.