Egan: The folly of office towers in a time of pandemic

By Kelly Egan, Ottawa Citizen, April 23, 2020

The pandemic has given rise to a massive work-at-home experiment — the house a test tube, pyjamas a lab coat.

It’s early days, but what should our workplaces, our companies, our urban landscapes even, look like when the dust settles and all the swab kits and masks are put away?

(...)Think of it. If we can empty an office campus of 10,000 employees, shutter all those cubicle farms — and still do the bulk of the work — what does this say about how we design work, and workspaces, in the post-pandemic world? Or how we plan roads or transit, or site “employment nodes,” as the laser-pointers like to say?

A neighbour put it this way: we empty the suburbs, clog our roads and highways with commuters, to gather in expensive, tax-funded skyscrapers for eight or 10 hours a day, and not on weekends, to accomplish what we might do from desks in a spare bedroom.

(...)“People have talked about telecommuting since, maybe the ’80s, but I think urban planners haven’t really wrapped wrap their heads around what this could mean at scale,” said Robb Barnes, executive director of Ecology Ottawa, which has a keen interest in healthy cities.

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