Downtime activities

Covid-19; Pandemic; Virus; Science

A few weeks ago, ArchiTeam initiated a weekly series of virtual gatherings via Zoom. The aim of these is to provide a safe space in which to discuss the Covid-19 induced challenges we’re all facing, and stay connected during the coming months of isolation. You can find out more information on the series, including details of upcoming sessions, here.

During our first gathering, a lively group of ArchiTeam members discussed the impacts of the various financial incentives so far introduced by federal and state governments, and previously examined on Panfilo here and here.

We also shared our consensus that many ongoing projects have already or may soon go on hold, and that new commissions are likely to be few and far between for the rest of 2020. An industry pulse check undertaken by the Association of Consulting Architects has since confirmed this informal research, finding that 66% of architecture practices have had projects put on hold or cancelled, and a further 23% anticipate this will happen soon.[1]

Sandwiched between the opposing realities of the government stimulus packages and underwhelming project loads, many architecture studios will find themselves in a very weird place over coming months: hopefully enough money coming in the door to keep staff gainfully employed but not enough projects to keep them busy.

So if this is you, what should you do with your downtime? And how can you use this enforced quiet period profitably? The gathered ArchiTeam members brainstormed these questions and came up with a bunch of good ideas:

Technical training

If you’ve been thinking about switching from CAD to BIM but haven’t had the time to implement it, or have always wanted to get better at producing in-house renders, or would love to integrate virtual reality into your client presentations, then technical training is the downtime activity for you.

Spring cleaning

Is your samples library a disorganised pile of trash lurking in the corner of your studio? Can you never seem to remember where exactly you last used that great kitchen tap? If you answered yes to either, then roll up your sleeves and get started on some long overdue spring cleaning.

While you’re at it, consider refining your list of preferred products to have a higher representation of Australian-made products: they’ll be better in the short term for a construction industry without international freight, and they’ll be better in the long term for the environment.

Design competitions

I’m normally not a fan of investing time and creative energy into the black hole of design competitions for almost no return, but in Covid-19 World time is not a scarce resource. So if you find one that could have strategic benefit for your studio, or one you might actually have a chance of winning, give it a crack.

Getting nostalgic

I bet it’s been a while since you built a balsa model yourself, or sketched ideas on yellow trace, or painted in watercolour. If you yearn for the simpler days when you actually had enough hours in the day to do these things, now is the time to get back in touch with your nostalgic side.

Read a book

Bill Gates reads around 50 books a year, giving credence to the commonly held belief that the most successful businesspeople in the world read an enormous number of books. If that sounds like an unreachable fairytale to you, the Covid-19 lockdown is an excellent opportunity to at least establish some good habits in the right direction.

If you’re unsure what you should be reading, check out this list of eight of the best business books for architects, recently published on Panfilo.

Business preparation

As a small business owner, the most important thing you can do for your business is to work on it, not in it. Of course, this is usually much easier said than done. But with fewer projects now clamouring for your attention, the most valuable way you can spend your downtime is to put plans in place for when the economy recovers. You could develop a strategic plan, flesh out a marketing strategy, rebuild your website, prepare your carbon inventory, update your drawing protocols or work on an office manual.

Once again, I wish you all the best in your efforts to survive what are sure to be difficult months ahead, and hope we see each other on the other side of Covid-19 with all of our practices alive and well. A collection of Panfilo articles related to Covid-19 can be accessed here.


  1. Pulse check number 2: preliminary results; Association of Consulting Architects; April 2020.


  1. Ultrastructure of the Covid-19 virus; sourced from New Scientist.

One thought on “Downtime activities

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  1. Another great downtime activity is pro-bono work! (Particularly after the bushfires!)


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