With construction cost increases in Chicago among the highest in the nation, many office building owners and companies are feeling the pinch during a time of already heightened uncertainty. Yes, it’s possible to complete projects on time and on budget—with a communication-first approach to project management and execution. In the face of headwinds in the market, JCA sees reasons for optimism in the New Year—the supply chain delays are easing, companies are taking steps now for their future office needs, and Chicago is attracting new, experiential retail formats that will revitalize downtown and neighborhood destinations.
Long Lead Times Will Finally Level Off
Supply chain challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, the Suez Canal obstruction, and port congestion have profoundly affected manufacturing and consumer goods over the past 2.5 years. In construction, we’ve had to contend with record lead times for building materials and price volatility. During this time, we’ve had to counsel clients on alternative materials and proactive scheduling to keep projects on track.
The good news is, many indicators show that the supply chain woes are lessening. According to an expert from Turner & Townsend, a U.K.-based global real estate and infrastructure consultancy, “Many of the core constraints in manufacturing and transportation are slowly improving and this will cause lead times to settle.”
Getting HVAC, appliances, tile, flooring, cabinetry, and other interior finishes faster will help contractors schedule with more certainty and allow projects to be completed sooner so owners can realize revenue.
Offices Aren’t Obsolete—They’re Just in Transition
Many companies have accepted work from home and hybrid workforces over the past few years. Yet some have realized what’s missing when they don’t have employees together in person regularly – collaboration, employee development and personal connection. There’s a shift back toward in-person work at least some of the time, including the big technology firms that tend to lead the trend for other industries. While there’s no doubt the office sector will take some time to recover, our recent office build-outs show the innovative approaches and investments companies are making for the office of the future.
For Kraft-Heinz, which occupies floors 72 to 76 of Chicago’s Aon Center, we assisted with a successful return to work program. The project encompassed renovating open seating, adding more than 10 different styles of conference or collaboration zones, and a demonstration test kitchen.
Another recent client, market research company Ipsos, bucked the trend of downsizing and moved its Chicago office from 222 Riverside to the 11th floor of 222 W. Adams St. for more space. Our work included the addition of a User Experience (UX) facility, collaboration spaces, offices and open seating. Features also include a cabana and game room with neon signage, two “gathering stairs” as huddle areas and multiple preserved moss living wall installations.
New Spaces to Gather People
In addition to companies bringing back people to offices, cities will need new dining, entertainment and cultural experiences to rejuvenate downtowns and neighborhoods. In Chicago we are lucky to have abundant and vibrant offerings, with new openings to be excited about.
In 2022, we completed the interior buildout for immersive art museum Color Factory in the iconic Willis Tower. The 24,000-foot space is Color Factory’s largest venue and flagship location. In an ambitious 16-week timeframe, we brought to life the Color Factory’s mission to celebrate the “joy of color” through interactive installations and curated exhibits inspired by the city of Chicago.The Color Factory joins WNDR Museum, The Museum of Ice Cream, and other pop-up and permanent immersive experiences in the city.
We’ve Hit Some Stumbling Blocks, but Steadier Paths Are Ahead
Commercial construction has had a tumultuous few years, but despite the challenges of rising costs, global disruption and evolving work cultures, we’ve been able to guide clients to successful outcomes by being proactive, flexible and communicating at every step. Now we have some reasons to look toward 2023 with a more hopeful gaze.