Archilyse is Asking: How is the Real Estate Industry Standing up to
Sars-Cov-2?

Interview with Julien Fersing, Co-Founder and CEO of SWISSROC Building Intelligence

In today’s interview, Julien Fersing, Co-Founder and CEO of SWISSROC Building Intelligence, will talk about his experiences regarding the Corona crisis. The company focuses on constructing and renovating properties as well as dealing and developing real estate. 

In the “Standing up to Sars-Cov-2” interview series, we feature personalities from the real estate industry. We want to promote the exchange and encourage all real estate players to stay strong during this challenging time.

1. In what ways were and are you – as a company – most affected by the Sars-Cov-2 outbreak (e.g. decline in orders, termination of operations, etc.)?

As an architectural company, the closing of construction sites allowed us to work with project managers in order to anticipate the needs of drawings and details. However, it will have an impact on all schedules and a pick of demand when activities will start again.

Also, public departments are closed, and no building permits can be obtained. Those delays, directly impacting developers, will equally affect our pipeline of projects.

2. What measures (technical, organizational, customer-specific) have been taken in your company? What tips can you give others based on your experience?

Our company already had all the needed infrastructure to work remotely. The transition has been extremely rapid and in less than 24 hours, our team members were working from their homes. We continue our regular weekly team meetings, over conference calls, to ensure good communication across all teams.

We believe an efficient exchange of information is more important than ever in such a situation.

3. What was your approach, e.g. did you think in different scenarios? Which sources of information or methodological approaches did you choose?

We made a few scenarios to evaluate the impact that COVID-19 could have on our company and also various solutions to be implemented using the “what if” approach.

Public available data together with our internal metrics were used to identify the impact and select the most effective solutions for each scenario. For example, we assessed the distribution of all our corporate fees and cut down or froze all the unnecessary elements to be agile and light.

4. Looking back on the last few weeks, what would you do differently today? What conclusions can you already draw from this?

Evaluating the priority was difficult during the first weeks, keeping the focus on important tasks when everything seems to be urgent. Our team has introduced some tools to classify the various incoming tasks based on three levels of assessment, similar to how IT teams are working.

We have seen also that most of our meetings can be done over conference calls in a shorter time by focusing on clear output. For future meetings, we will have to decide which ones need to be held in person and which ones could be done over a conference call.

5. Where do you see the greatest challenges or threats in the current situation? How do you deal with them?

A decline in demand is, without doubt, our biggest fear. At the moment, the market of real estate is holding up well compared to the stock exchange market.

We believe that doubling down on our commercial approaches and finding key partners will help us to sail through the pandemic and go out of it stronger than before. We are analyzing all our processes and are seeking for efficiency by introducing new methodologies and workflows.

6. Are there any positive aspects you can draw from this crisis? What opportunities are there?

As a company already mastering the digitalization of our process, we are happy to witness how it can be functional in such a scenario. We did not plan that our methods would be used in case of a pandemic, but we believe that COVID-19 will force companies to review their mindset towards new technologies.

Some profound changes in the real estate and construction market will happen during this new decade. We could see this crisis as a shout to boost efficiency in our old industry.

7. Let’s travel into the past before the crisis – what tips would you give yourself from today’s perspective?

The more data and metrics you have, the better you can evaluate various scenarios and take decisions. I believe we should evaluate the different “what if” scenarios that could impact us as a company more often. Consequently, we could act faster and be less overwhelmed by various occurring events.

I also think we should evaluate our expenses more frequently and seek savings whatever the cash flow situation is. At the same time, investing more in R&D is key to remain competitive. We should spend more time evaluating our internal process and looking for alternative solutions.

8. Let’s travel into the future and think of April 2021 – What will have changed permanently as a result of this crisis?

Let’s be optimistic and say that everything will be behind us by April 2021.

Having trusted and validated information is difficult, even more in times of crisis.

I believe that COVID-19 will strongly encourage our industry to adopt new technology like BIM/VDC in order to work remotely on a project, helping the design team to communicate better with each stakeholder of a project using the models.

I also believe our public departments will move towards a complete digitisation of their processes, and follow the new market needs. Finally, I believe that blockchain and token technologies will see a larger adoption to help the real-estate market transition to a new -digital- reality.

9. How are you currently preparing for the time after Corona? Are there any measures that you are already taking?

We are preparing some new ways of packaging our activities together for our clients, to always give them the best ratio between quality and price.

We know that the market will look for increased efficiency at each level of a project. Therefore, we are reviewing all our processes and are exploring a new way of producing design projects and documentation using automatisation and modern technologies such as algorithmic thinking and parametric design based on big data.

Efficient communication is also key, and that includes how we present our project to our clients.

Real-time visualization technology with the virtual visit will help more and more buyers to make some decisions before the construction starts. Our R&D department actively develops new tools to help our clients design their future home from the comfort of their sofa.

Thanks a lot, Julien Fersing, for these interesting insights!

Stay tuned!

Read also the other exciting interviews with Marcelo Collins from Viva Real or with Jan Eckert of JLL. Our next interview partner is coming up soon.