Architects say work drying up

Architects in Wanaka have been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis, as many of their projects are on hold or not going ahead.

Before the lockdown the Queenstown-Lakes district had been the fastest growing region in New Zealand and Wanaka was growing faster than Queenstown.

Since the lockdown, New Zealand Institute of Architects southern branch chairman and Wanaka architect Chris Norman said 60% of his office projects were now on hold. Early concept design stage projects were the most affected.

Mr Norman said he had been speaking to other architects around the country who had been through recessions and the Global Financial Crisis and they predicted it could take three to four years for the construction industry to return to normal.

However, he said for those people who were in a position to build there were some opportunities.

"It is a bit risky because people don’t know what the supply chain is going to be like and what costs are going to do, but there will be a lot more competition in the market."

New Zealand Institute of Architecture Distinguished Fellow and Wanaka architect Anne Salmond said she was expecting a growth in alterations and additions.

"People have been sitting in their houses for six weeks trying to work from home and thinking ‘I want to turn this spare room into a proper study’ or ‘OK, we are not going to build that new house now so that means we are going to have to stay here, but I am not putting up with this kitchen for another weekend’ ... so we could well see a change in the ratio of new houses to people investing more in the properties they have already got."

Ms Salmond agreed builders might be prepared to price more keenly from now on to ensure they got the work but social distancing requirements had slowed construction times and added costs.

She did not anticipate architects losing their jobs because their overheads were lower, they could work from home and they could scale up or down, depending on the size of the project.

However, she was not as optimistic for the building industry.

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