Eduvation Blog

Hurricanes, Sociopaths, and Trends in Architecture

Good morning!

This afternoon I’m moderating the final session of Eduvation’s 2019-20 national CMO Roundtable. As we wrap up one year and prepare the launch the next, let me know if you’re a campus leader in public affairs, marketing or communications who might like to join us!

Today, we continue our deep dive into pandemic impacts on real estate, particularly commercial office space and campuses, construction and architecture trends. And we revisit the latest on face coverings.

But first, some breaking news, from hundreds of students suspended, wildfires and hurricanes to a nationwide Zoom outage, and a nationwide faculty walkout…

A Rough Start

The week, and in some cases the new academic year, is off to a rough start, whether students are on campus or online…

Parties, Suspensions, Delays and Closures

Across the US, what I’ve called “the inevitable” continues to unfold, as more and more institutions back down or postpone a return to campus. (Parties, quarantines, suspensions and closures – there are way too many to count now.) IHE   

The student newspaper at Notre Dame is imploring administrators, “Please don’t make us write obituaries.”  Newsweek

Last night, Ohio State issued “interim suspensions” to 228 students for COVID19 violations (largely off-campus parties and a lack of social distancing). Forbes

Wildfires and Hurricanes

Physical campuses are beset this week by other natural disasters too. In California, institutions are being evacuated due to approaching wildfires, while those on the Gulf coast close as Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura approach. WGNO

A Zoom “Snow Day”

The virtual classroom was also not safe yesterday. As millions of students returned to class via Zoom, the platform experienced “partial outages” starting Monday morning at 9am. (It was “fixed” by 3pm.)  Fast Company

National Uni Strike in Australia?

In Australia, hundreds of university staff have voted for “serious planning” of a national wildcat strike to protest thousands of job cuts at campuses across the country, and government moves to cut funding and hike tuition for many programs, while COVID19 decimates revenue from international students. (RMIT just announced another 355 voluntary redundancies.) The new group, calling itself the National Higher Education Action Network, is critical of decisions taken by university administrations, the government, and apparently also the National Tertiary Education Union.  Sydney Morning Herald

The Masking Majority

As health authorities start to acknowledge that COVID19 can be transmitted by aerosols, institutions are implementing mandatory mask policies, often in response to regional PHO orders…

Memorial U is making face masks mandatory as of today in public indoor spaces and common areas, in accordance with the PHO’s special measures order. MUN

Red River College will require face masks in all indoor spaces beginning Aug 31. RRC

By my tally, about 62% of CdnPSEs have now made face coverings mandatory in indoor common areas, and another 10% are strongly encouraging them. (These numbers are likely underreported, since I may well have missed some announcements.)

The Anti-Mask Minority

If you’re mystified by the vocal protests against mandatory face masks, here are two potential drivers for the opposition by anti-maskers…

Pandemic Acne is a Thing

Since at least June, mainstream media have been reporting “maskne,” and numerous new products launched to treat it. “It’s a real thing,” says a Yale dermatologist. The most common form of mask irritation is caused by physical rubbing, particularly for close-fitting masks worn by front-line healthcare workers. For a cotton mask, “treat it like underwear and wash it frequently.” Use an unscented, non-soap cleanser and moisturizer on your face, and use products with active ingredients like Retinol only at night. Treat contact dermatitis with hydrocortisone. And of course, try to avoid stress, sugary foods and processed snacks. (In a pandemic? Yeah, right…) NY Times

Impulsive, Irresponsible Sociopaths

A new study from Brazil sounds about right: “people with sociopathic traits are more likely to not comply with mask-wearing and other measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.” Antimaskers scored higher in tests for callousness, deceitfulness, hostility, impulsivity, irresponsibility, manipulativeness and risk-taking, and tended to have lower levels of empathy. (Sound like any world leaders you know?) Newsweek


Plagues have transformed architecture before: the Spanish Flu led to vanity rooms near front doors, while tuberculosis increased our appetite for balconies and patios. COVID19 is already shifting design expectations and demand, both residential and commercial, in ways that will affect PSE campuses…

Downtown Vacancies

Calgary has seen a glut of empty office space for several years now, but WFH and corporate downsizing or closures have raised the downtown vacancy rate to a “sky-high” 25%, and it is only expected to continue rising. (Recently Western announced they are moving continuing ed from a downtown office building back to their main campus.) Some Calgary developers are converting empty office buildings into rental apartments or self-storage facilities. Global

Rethinking the Campus

Around the world, architecture firms report a freeze on office and hospitality development, as well as much higher ed construction – although some say plans for campus STEM labs remain strong, and increasingly consultants are assessing how campus space might be reconfigured for altered use. Facing unprecedented financial challenges, PSEs should consider renegotiating leases, subletting or selling non-core real estate assets, redirecting their savings to technology or safety investments. (Recently we’ve seen uRegina and uManitoba put their presidential residences up for sale, and uAlberta has plans to significantly reduce its footprint.) “Sale-leaseback” arrangements may free up capital and provide liquidity to survive the COVID19 crisis. University Business

Architecture and construction trends will have implications for campus dorms in the future, as well as construction trades and engineering programs…

Low-Density & Prefab

Suburban low-rise office space with less reliance on elevators will likely become more popular, and architects are introducing more cross-ventilation, natural light, and outdoor access in current designs. With restrictions to on-site worker density, there will be growing interest in prefabricated, modular construction approaches, which offer cost certainty, environmental benefits, and reduced project timelines, unaffected by weather. (Prefab construction trends could also shift up to half of construction jobs from the worksite to the factory floor.) World Economic Forum

Space for Isolation

In the US and around the world, new houses have grown larger since the 1970s, even though family sizes have shrunk and incomes have stayed flat. Post-COVID19, people are expected to “crave nature-positive spaces” but less open floorplans, perhaps adding more cozy dens and screened porches. Independent granny suites and even split-HVAC systems may assist with pandemic isolation, too. World Economic Forum

Although many campuses have installed “living walls” and “green roofs” on their new LEED-compliant buildings, the pandemic has prompted similar trends in apartment and residential home design too…

Indoor Greenery

This spring, houseplants sold out at many retailers, along with toilet paper. Many workers have lamented that the plants they left at work in March are long-since dead. Apparently, people turned to houseplants to help cope with isolation during the lockdown, and to bring greenery into downtown apartments in particular. One online retailer reports more 25-35-year-old men have been buying plants. “Indoor plants are having a really big moment.” US News

Flexible, Natural Spaces

Extended WFH, often for multiple roommates or adults and their children, has highlighted the need for compact workspaces to provide adequate privacy and structure. Architects are designing more flexible floorplans and multi-use rooms, with sliding walls and hideable desks. Some are eliminating hallways altogether, placing rooms “in a line” to improve ventilation. Residential designs are “evolving to feel closer to nature” with plenty of plants, natural light and fresh air. Larger balconies, with room for a table and chairs, are becoming more important than ever.  World Economic Forum

Restorative Power of Nature

Environmental psychologists emphasize the importance of green spaces has increased during the social isolation of the pandemic, and three-quarters of Canadians have “a new appreciation for parks.” As the Canadian City Parks Report says, “parks form a critical backbone of community infrastructure, strengthening our resilience during times of crisis. Parks are places where we grow our own food, where we let anxieties melt away on a nature walk, where we create social support networks, and even where we may find shelter during a trying time.” With some high-profile examples of crowds flaunting social-distancing rules in public spaces, like Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park, many cities are now painting spacing circles on park lawns. The real challenge remains public restrooms, when “nature calls.” In many cities they remain closed due to COVID19. Montreal Gazette


Algonquin College has published a really streamlined, essentially 3-page Campus Access Guide to highlight health and safety protocols for those returning to campus. (The PDF relies heavily on links to more detailed resources.) Algonquin

Mount Allison U is offering virtual tours, by appointment, providing students with an “all-access look” at the campus experience, classrooms, labs, and residences, led by upper-year student ambassadors. The landing page also offers an interactive campus map. MtA

Queen’s U is launching a 4-week social media campaign targeting students in Kingston, to promote PHO directives and resources. Animated messages will highlight hand hygiene, physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing face coverings. Queen’s Gazette

York U has started a “major refresh” of its website this week, as part of a “new pan-University web optimization strategy.” Dramatic changes will provide a “mobile-first, content-driven and social media-enabled user experience,” and improve accessibility and search engine optimization. The new web templates will be “one of the first visible components reflecting York’s new brand differentiation strategy, narrative and visual design system.” (I can hardly wait to see it!)  York


And finally, RIP education luminary Sir Ken Robinson, who passed away Friday at age 70. I only interacted with him a few times on Twitter, but like more than 66 million others, I was inspired by his 2006 TED Talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” His voice and ideas will be missed.

Thanks for reading!  Stay safe and be well…

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