As engineers we work with developers to ensure we are leveraging available improvements in design technologies and philosophies. The trend is towards increasing upfront expenditure to reduce operational costs throughout the facility’s life cycle. Operational costs over the life cycle of a facility are substantially higher than the initial capital costs – where maintenance to joints, repairs to machines and downtime, for example, result in far higher costs over a 20-year period if not designed correctly up front. As such, we are seeing the benefits of advanced floor technology designed to increase panel sizes, reduce joint linear meters, and improve joint performance through high specification joint products.
The healthcare imperative reaches new heights
The provision of healthcare services across Africa has long been a major trend in property development, and the pandemic has brought a new sense of urgency to this space. While there remains definite scope in Africa for high-tech and high-performance hospitals that deliver state-of-the-art care, this is not the sole focus. Particularly in remote and rural areas – where even basic healthcare and medical services may be lacking – a more decentralised approach can bring care to where the people are, is needed.
Place-based wellness centres, which create an opportunity to leverage a larger number of smaller facilities to deliver quality services and care across wider geographic areas are still desperately needed across the continent. And whether these take the form of a standalone facility in a remote area or an add-on to existing primary healthcare clinics within the same complex, placed-based community wellness centres can be designed and constructed with modular units to make them flexible, adaptable and fit-for-purpose to the evolving needs of the communities they serve.
In addition to healthcare facilities, Africa’s need to build pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities has also come under the spotlight. Importing vaccines against COVID-19 instead of manufacturing them in country may be top of mind, but expansion of Africa’s capability to manufacture other drugs and vaccines has become an imperative. And we are seeing investors rise to the occasion.
Tourism remains commercially viable
Finally, and perhaps surprisingly in the current context, investment into hospitality in Africa is also on the rise. Property developers are preparing for an increase in tourism throughout Africa when travel restrictions ease, and we are working on several new hotel projects, for example. Travel in Africa is affordable compared to much of the developed world, and increased leisure tourism is expected.
In addition, work-from-anywhere means many traditionally office-based workers may choose to work from non-traditional locations in the not-too-distant future. African destinations like Mauritius are already offering so-called “Nomad Visas” – allowing people to live and work in Mauritius for up to a year without making any major investments in starting up a business or finding local employment. Investors are preparing for an increase in people choosing to work from the beach or the bush, rather than in the big city.
These trends are encouraging for Africa’s commercial property recovery post-pandemic, and as engineers we must keep sight not only of our clients’ immediate need to take advantage of these opportunities, but also of the sustainability of the projects we design today. Buildings are the foundation of our communities, but their emissions also add to existing climate crisis pressures. To continue to thrive, society needs net zero buildings. This means not only designing and constructing new net zero buildings, but rethinking retrofit to prepare our existing buildings for a low-carbon future. These are the challenges we’re helping developers, contractors, architects and local government tackle today.
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