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Designing Through a Pandemic: How We’re Using Technology in the Midst of COVID-19

It goes without saying that the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has changed the way we operate as a firm. From our own proactive measures to have staff work from home to the widespread quarantining measures our community is now undertaking, we’re proud of the ways in which our FOX Architects staff and design teams have been agile and innovative as we adapt to a new way of working remotely.

From concept presentations, design presentations and reviews, frequent check-ins with clients and partners, and even team design charrettes, FOX Architects is leveraging technology and rising to the challenge. We’re keeping projects on time and on budget, completing punch lists for construction sites, and creating new design concepts all while we practice social distancing and work from home. We’ve never worked this way before, but in some ways, we’ve never worked better.

We asked our architects and designers to tell us about some of the technologies they’re using to collaborate and serve our clients. Here’s what they have to say.


How Our Staff and Design Teams are Leveraging Technology

“As a team, we have been using Microsoft Teams to chat, review plans, and provide design feedback.  We also use the screen share feature to review documents together on my screen, just as we would in a conference room at the office.” – Jenny Hart, senior designer

“We have typically been able to courier samples to our client and then can have a virtual conversation with the materials in their hands. We develop a numbering system for each sample, so the client knows which material goes with scheme one vs. scheme two, etc. Since we can’t just run over to our in-office material library to show a different product as we would if we were in the office, we are making the best of this situation and finding ways to problem solve.” – Jim Allegro, principal

“The Microsoft Teams chat feature has been a great conduit for our informal office communication.  I use if for conversation I normally would have just shared across our desks or for when I would have walked over to someone else’s desk.  It’s been helpful.” – Roxanne Wallace, senior project manager

“Some of the ways we’re communicating now that we are all working remotely are typical for us. I have two construction projects that are out of state, so we are accustomed to leveraging technology to stay in constant communication with our contractors, partners, and clients in different locations.

Phone calls are a HUGE part of this experience. I think I’ve been having a minimum of 4 calls a day, either with teammates, contractors, or clients. Even though we have internal programs like Microsoft Teams, Bluebeam, and GoTo Meeting, it’s always easiest to pick up the phone and call! But even now, always follow up with an email!” – Savannah Mills, project designer

“It’s been an interesting experience being the elder in the group and figuring this technology out. I can make a sketch by hand, take a photo with my phone, and send it out or upload it to the video chat. Once, when someone on our team wasn’t understanding what we were discussing, I drew a quick sketch, took a photo, and sent it. This helped us solve our problem and I learned that with so many of these technologies available to us, you can use three or four tools back-to-back, and there’s nothing stopping you from finding a solution.” – Suzanne Zecchin, associate

FOX Architects remote meeting


Facing Challenges and Solving Problems

“It takes time to plan meetings with team members, however, the benefit is that all parties are prepared for the conversation.  The experience has been very positive in terms of communication, even though it has been slightly more difficult to have impromptu conversations since we can’t do a visual check to see who is in the office.”  – Jenny Hart, senior designer

“I think the hardest part of working remotely is having to be very intentional and smart about how you’re communicating information, both internally within the firm and externally with clients and partners. I’ve had to really spell some things out that otherwise may have been a simple conversation or sketch.” – Savannah Mills, project designer

“For a design development presentation, where we review design and finishes, we sent labeled finishes to the client ahead of the virtual meeting. This was helpful and well received by the client to be able to see and touch physical samples, since the screen resolution varies from screen to screen. We used GoTo Meeting for this virtual presentation and shared the call and web information in our calendar invite. Ahead of the meeting start, the FOX team logged in to make sure all worked properly, however, we experience a connection issue and our main presenter had to relocate to another part of their home. After that, the meeting went seamlessly, and we didn’t have to implement our ‘plan B.’ The client was very understanding and patient. The design was approved, and the client said they are ‘excited with the design for their new workplace!’” – Ursula Finley, associate, senior project manager


Everyone agrees That client feedback has been positive

“The feedback from our clients and partners has been very positive. Everyone is having the same types of meetings, so everyone is very motivated to make virtual meetings as productive as possible.”  – Jenny Hart, senior designer

“Most of our clients are very tech savvy. They’ve been great and have appreciated the ways in which we are being flexible to accommodate and collaborate with them! For one client, we sent out a programming survey to their staff to see what they needed and how they like to work. I sent it out and we loaded it up on a WebX meeting and shared the results. Someone else from our team shared a Revit file by sharing her screen. As we reviewed the data with our client, we were able to make changes to the design and review them with the client in real time. Our client was very impressed!” – Suzanne Zecchin, associate