Does The Covid Era Could Mean That Commercial Spaces Should Embrace Change Or Get Left Behind?

Posted: August 13, 2020
Category: Retail

Sometime in the fifth century BC, Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, “the only thing constant in life is change.” Two millennia later, In the midst of a pandemic, the concept that that all permanence is an illusion rings truer than ever. And few areas are experiencing this seismic shift than commercial spaces.

A piece published by McKinsey in April noted a survey of 98 US-based retail executives in a variety of subsectors which found that most executives expect store traffic to return to pre-crisis levels, but not for at least several months after stores reopen. But the reopening strategy won’t come without considerable changes in numerous areas that include operating hours and the physical footprint of retail space.

Correspondingly, The New York Times reported on how the pandemic could usher out the era of the elbow-to-elbow open floor collaborative workspaces that have grown in popularity over the past decade. Whether this means the mere adding of sneeze guards between workstations, or the return to rows of cubicles remains to be seen.

Physical barrier operation Panel Built is banking on offices looking to break up their open floor plans with semi-permanent wall systems to reduce employee exposure to aerosol droplets. Touting the necessity of their product, Panel Built noted in a press release.

“Generally, in an open office environment, employees will not find themselves more than six feet away from one another,” the release noted. “Like employees in grocery stores and restaurants, those in an office environment could wear a face mask. However, with employees working eight plus hours a day, many will likely elect to do without it, for better or worse. If these social distancing guidelines are not followed, an open office environment could be at a great risk environment to spread the virus throughout the company.”



One person who is bullish on the prospect of renovating spaces during COVID times is Christopher Dameron of Brooklyn’s Dameron Architecture. Speaking to lifestyle website,, Dameron noted that this is an excellent time to build. “Your money will go further. Interest rates are low...” Dameron futher noted that because “there is a lull, you’ll get extra attention—that’s the biggest perk—extra attention to your project.” Although Dameron was speaking about residential renovations, his points carry over to renovations to commercial spaces.

For retailers and office renters, one of the few silver linings to decreased floor traffic is the ability to use traditional worker hours to make necessary renovations without affecting too many shoppers or staff. On a much larger scale than traditional mom and pop retail shops, New York City real estate and property management giant Kamber Management is taking advantage of decreased office traffic to spend millions of dollars to renovate the lobby, atrium and amenity space at 120 45th Street in Midtown.



Changes to office and retail floorplans and entrances bring on the necessity of wiring upgrades. A wider store entrance could change the point of sale, which will require rewiring outlets and data systems. Similarly, reception areas in offices might need upgrades after being relocated in a post-COVID renovation. Changes to a formerly open office footprint with cubicles or Panel Built system brings on its own set of challenges that require the expertise of a commercial electrician.

Another silver lining to a COVID era renovation is the opportunity to upgrade lighting systems.

Fluorescents are never flattering, and old school incandescent bulbs create heat that can make staff and shoppers uncomfortable. The best option is using LED bulbs, which are energy efficient, do not generate heat and last much longer, making them less likely to fail during business hours. Best of all, LED lighting can significantly reduce your electric bill.

Retailers also have the added bonus of having the opportunity to use a lighting system renovation to redefine their spaces. Such redesigns could include the use of:


Spotlights – to focus attention on product.

Backlights – that give products a glow.

High-Activity – that covers the entire store or retail area.

Warm Temperature – to create an inviting space for larger shops.

Cool Temperature – to evoke a larger space for smaller shops.



Nothing could be worse than spending thousands of dollars on a renovation that achieves everything both functionally and aesthetically, only to have an inspector come in and shut the operation down over a breach of code. Hiring a licensed and insured electrician like PK & Altman is a sure bet way to avoid this from happening.

Are you a commercial operation looking to renovate? Call PK & Altman Electric. We work closely with designers, architects, and general contractors throughout the building process. We design interior and showcase lighting to display your merchandise in the best possible light.


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