The past shapes the future. As eager as we all are to flip the calendar and savor the fresh start of a new year, there’s something to be learned from revisiting the teachings of the old one.
The year 2020 was a line in the sand. Before 2020, we did things a certain way. After 2020, we’ll do things differently. In big ways and small, 2020 challenged us. It changed us. Taught us.
Most of all, it inspired us—to think beyond what was “normal” just months ago to a “new normal” that can be even better months from now. Looking back, we can see how the lessons we learned can empower us to innovate and improve, to re-evaluate our priorities and reshape the future in ways we hadn’t considered.
The irreplaceable need for good physical and mental health. The strength of community. The power to transform. The wisdom to come together… and the destruction of coming apart. All lessons to be taken to heart. All lessons from a year we’re ready to leave behind.
The year 2020 was a good teacher. It taught us things that can lay a foundation of hope and promise for 2021.
Ten Lessons 2020 Taught Us
1. The important things stay the same, even during times of great change.
Putting people first. Building lasting relationships. Working toward a common goal. Striving to achieve great things for the greater good. These are bedrock values, woven into our culture at AMS. The past year tested us in unprecedented ways, but it also reinforced our purpose as a company, a leader and a partner: to build safe, healthy, responsible learning environments that are accessible to all students.
2. Nothing is more important than health and wellness.
The stress, fear and anxiety of 2020 impacted everyone, reminding us how intertwined we are. As a society, we’re responsible not just for our own health and well-being, but for the health and well-being of others. Sharing resources means sharing responsibility. Recognizing our connection to those around us and managing risk to safeguard future generations is vital to us all.
3. Change is an opportunity for growth and advancement.
The potential for meaningful change is greatest during times of upheaval. Historic disruption inspires creative thinking, leading us to re-examine how we’re doing things and ask if we can do better. Can we do more? Can we raise standards… improve lives… create a better world? Times are changing, and more change is coming. Channeling change into opportunity is a powerful stimulus for growth.
4. Flexibility matters.
How we adapt influences how successful we are, not just in building design, but in how we interact, how we do business and how we learn. We don’t have to be physically face-to-face to connect—2020 showed us we can work and learn together… apart. With technology at our fingertips—and emerging technology driving progress—the need for flexibility, and our ability to enhance it, is greater than ever.
5. There are many ways to learn.
And all of them will be part of the classrooms of the future. Homeschooling emphasized how essential teachers are. As classrooms continue to transform, we need to provide a supportive environment that empowers and enriches both students and teachers. A hybrid model is already evolving, blending real and digital classrooms in a single space, with multiple learning methods within each infrastructure.
6. Accessibility for all benefits us all.
Together is more than a buzzword. It’s the best path forward. Diversity and inclusion make us all stronger. While 2020 exposed problems, 2021 can provide solutions. Addressing the divide in our communities… closing the achievement gap in our schools… making safer, healthier learning environments accessible for all students are things we can unite behind and work toward.
7. Outdoors is the new indoors.
A connection with the environment does more than feel good; it improves well-being and productivity. Being shut inside gave us new appreciation for fresh air, sunlight, room to spread out and the freedom to move inside and out. In addition to bringing the outdoors in, school design will increasingly bring the indoors out, as fluid connections between indoor-outdoor learning spaces become integral to planning.
8. Low-maintenance and high-tech are becoming higher priority.
Life got complex in 2020, so we learned to simplify. A heightened focus on health and safety popularized time-saving solutions, like easy-clean surfaces, antimicrobial finishes and low-VOC materials. Touchless technology will replace touchpads, as schools look to transition to automated systems. Tech-enabled lighting, climate control and restroom fixtures are all areas where hands-free is healthier.
9. Push boundaries.
A global pandemic doesn’t respect boundaries. COVID doesn’t care what worked in the past. We need to innovate forward. A creative mindset means embracing all ideas, exploring all opportunities, listening to all voices and respecting all opinions. Solutions can come from anywhere. The best way to find them is to remove limits and create a culture where participation and cooperation are valued and encouraged.
10. We are resilient.
Californians have coped with much and will cope with it again. Wildfires and COVID made 2020 a year of adversity we’ll never forget, but we persevered. Whatever the challenge, we overcome, we rise above and we come back stronger than ever. Instead of merely adjusting to a new reality, our communities, businesses and schools can create a better reality—one that will carry us confidently into the future.
Laying the Foundation for 2021
Building a better future takes all of us.
At AMS, we’re already using what we’ve learned to fuel our imagination and drive innovation. We’re looking for ways to better educate and empower our children to achieve and succeed, while keeping them, their teachers and families safe.
Here are four ways we plan to make a positive impact this year.
1. Adapt school design for a new era of learning.
An increased focus on student and teacher health is here to stay. Health monitoring, cleaning protocols and social distancing are part of the new reality for schools. So is blended learning, as more families and communities pursue a wider range of options for teaching students.
Schools aren’t alone in trying to figure out the best solutions for navigating a post-pandemic world. AMS is leading the way, working closely with school districts across California to find realistic, easily implemented solutions for the safe return to classrooms sometime this year.
2. Make healthier upgrades accessible and affordable.
AMS has invested years of research and resources making our GEN7 buildings the healthiest learning environments available to schools. But having healthy buildings available isn’t enough.
We realize GEN7 isn’t financially feasible for every school, so we’re working to integrate more of GEN7’s higher-end features in other AMS buildings—either standard or as an affordable upgrade. Offering more options in more price ranges will make healthier learning accessible to more students.
3. Invest in smart technology.
Technology is the engine of smarter buildings. Educational, sustainable and automated technologies all make learning spaces healthier, more productive and higher performing, helping students learn and making buildings more efficient.
AMS will continue to develop and test new technology in our innovation lab, we’ll offer more tech options and upgrades, we’ll integrate more technology at the factory and we’ll provide a more robust technology infrastructure for schools wanting advanced capabilities. And while we elevate technology now, we’ll continue to future-proof our buildings so they can evolve and grow with changing needs.
4. Partner with schools to improve IAQ.
Schools have two levels of need—to improve the indoor air quality in current buildings and to upgrade and optimize IAQ in new builds. AMS is already working with schools to make buildings safer for the return to school—and even safer for the future. We’ve also been consulting with vendors and industry experts to update our HVAC systems and on-board technology for maximum efficiency. We’re exploring all ventilation options, evaluating new systems, add-on technology and advanced controls to optimize air quality throughout schools, especially in the classroom environment.
While 2020 is now behind us, it left an indelible mark. It shaped us and we, in turn, will shape the future. What we do this year will define us more than last year.
We’ll be blogging about the year—and the opportunities—ahead in the coming months, offering a more in-depth look at the many things we can do, are doing and plan to do to improve the health, safety and quality of learning in our schools, this year and for the future.
We’ll announce new blog posts in our newsletter and on social media, so if you’re not following us, join our AMS community and get a first look at the many exciting things to come.
Happy New Year!
Learn more about our healthy, sustainable GEN7 buildings.