A Personal Note from CTBUH Chairman Steve Watts

Monday, 06 April 2020 | London

Dear friends, colleagues, and CTBUH supporters,

With something like a quarter of the world’s population in some form of lockdown, it is likely that I am sending this note from my “man cave” at the bottom of the garden to a whole variety of home-working spaces. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. I’m sure, like me, you’ve heard the word “unprecedented” more over the last few weeks than ever before. These are strange times indeed, and I think The Economist got it spot on by saying: “It is hard to know how long it will be before normality returns, or what normality will look like.”

Whilst we may not have been here before, looking back in recent history at previous pandemics—the post-Great War Spanish Flu, to the H2N2 virus of the late 1950s, to the more recent Swine Flu, SARS, MERS, and Ebola—provides some interesting parallels, not least around discussions about the tensions between saving lives and protecting economies.

What is certain is that COVID-19 will eventually subside, and there will be a certain euphoria in that. There may even be a trend of rebirth and renewal, as the particular challenges and tragedies of this deadly outbreak prompt not only a more effective way of working and better work-life balances, but a much more efficient way to build. The proper embrace of technology, from BIM to industrial processes, may help support seamless connection and enthusiastic collaboration across disciplines and global lines.

It may also be that one of the beneficiaries is the World itself, as a more compassionate and thoughtful global community recognises that closer cooperation is required, and the real estate community does likewise in its strengthening goal to create buildings—including tall buildings—that are sustainable in all aspects of the term. This topic is one of the key plenaries intended for our conference in Singapore, with an honest debate about the cost of tall buildings, in financial, societal, and carbon terms. We truly hope that we are able to meet you there at that time, and we continue to plan for that event, whilst monitoring the global situation closely.

There are of course some commentators predicting doom and gloom, and there will be difficult times ahead, for sure. But I think, as with past periods of extreme turbulence, there will be some longer-term good to come of it—as one newspaper suggested recently: “Who is to say that this pandemic does not provide a turning point in world history?”

It will require, above all, cooperation and for new life to be breathed into research and innovation: things that the CTBUH clearly stands for. We have certainly got better at communication, and more skilled in using various platforms to do so!

CTBUH staff, like others, have switched their endeavours to their respective remote environments, and are working hard on a number of initiatives that we will share with you soon. We have a CTBUH Board of Trustees meeting taking place tomorrow, by video conference, where we will be connecting trustees across many time zones (including two new trustees), so it is business as usual even if the environment is anything but usual.

I do hope you all manage to endure these trying times and I equally hope that we can continue to support each other, and get through to the other side with a renewed purpose to help make tall buildings and cities more successful, and more humanizing.

My very best wishes, 
Steve Watts, CTBUH Chairman
Partner, alinea Consulting