President’s Column: Rethinking building post COVID-19

“We are well placed to play a constructive role in helping the world recover, rebuild and reimagine our future”


  • Timothy Neal FRICS

02 October 2020

Illustration: Danilo Agutoli

For many of us, this time of year would ordinarily mark a return to work after a hopefully restorative break. Of course, this has been no ordinary year, and I know and understand the frustration, hardships and, in some cases, the heartbreak that many of us have endured in these periods of lockdowns and isolation. My thoughts remain with everyone who has been touched by this global crisis.

Travel and gatherings have not consistently been possible at any great scale during these long, socially distanced months, and this deficit has served to remind us of the value of meaningful interactions with others and the world – whether seeing family and friends, enjoying the conviviality of our colleagues and workplaces, or the salutary effects of travel, even in its simplest forms like being able to walk outdoors. I hope amid all this that you have managed to find even the smallest time and space to recuperate and regather your strength.

As professionals working in the built and natural environment, we know all too well the crucial role that we have to play in facilitating a return to the social and working life outlined above. I have written previously about the inspiring stories of professionals doing just this through their #resilientresponse to COVID-19, and I would again highlight that stories are being added to RICS’ website all the time. I encourage you to read them, both for the motivation that we all surely need at this time, and for practical examples of how we can all continue to make a positive social impact. 

If this ethos has been key for facing of all the challenges the year has thrown at us so far, it will be even more critical as we look to the future. While the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and its policy response are significant, navigating the uncertainty that shrouds the months and years ahead can seem a more imposing task than dealing with tangible issues here and now.

Nevertheless, RICS professionals are well placed to play a constructive role in helping the world recover, rebuild and reimagine our future to deliver a better experience and outcomes for all, regardless of their background or circumstances.

"We should take solace and energy from the opportunity that this moment provides to build back better"

This is evident in the reception and impact of RICS’ ‘Beyond COVID-19: Reopening Guides’. This series of 13 guides help to provide that future certainty by enabling a safe return to activity across the built and natural environment around the world, including re-opening commercial buildings, valuation approaches and evidence, and advice on service charges.  

Their uptake and adoption to facilitate recovery by many organisations including the UK and Scottish governments is testament to the confidence that RICS professionals carry through their embodiment of the highest standards, and the trust invested in them to tackle the issues that matter to the public interest head-on. I encourage professionals to make use of these RICS resources to help support their operations and delivery for their clients, customers and the public at large.

The gradual return to activity in many places around the world is encouraging. We should be under no illusions, however, because the situation may easily revert, and potentially rapidly. But we should take solace and energy from the opportunity that this moment provides to build back better.  

You have all collectively shown great fortitude and professionalism in recent months. I know that if we can continue to remain resilient and positive, while embracing the flexibility and innovation that technology allows, then we will deliver on the trust that society places in us as professionals to serve the public advantage.

My best wishes for safe and productive practice to you all.