May 2, 2022

Are You Ready for the Future of Building Design?

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are profoundly impacting building design. Top of mind for architects are sustainability, health and wellness, and the flexibility to adapt to changing needs. Contractors should adjust their expectations and upgrade their skill sets accordingly.

General changes

No matter what the sector, optimal ventilation has risen to prominence during the pandemic. Buildings will be designed with enhanced HVAC systems — natural and mechanical — to improve air quality and filter out viruses, germs and pollutants. This can include new window patterns, upgraded air filtration systems and technologies such as UV light to kill pathogens.

Although so-called “contact transmission” turned out to be a lesser COVID-19 concern, buildings of all types will still likely include automatic doors, voice-activated elevators, smartphone-controlled room entry, and hands-free light and temperature controls.

Sector specifics

Naturally, many of the design changes you could encounter will depend on the sector in which you typically work. Here are some specifics:

Residential. Now that remote work and learning have become much more common, architects are moving away from compact rooms or open-concept designs to more convertible spaces. Fewer columns are a must to accommodate flexible floor designs. Co-working spaces and offices for lease are hot building amenities.

People working from home also need their fresh air. In-unit balconies in multifamily residential buildings are trending, as are roof decks and ground-floor podium decks.

Commercial. Anticipate moving away from large floor-plate buildings with shared bathrooms, corridors and public areas among tenants. There could also be a shift away from open-office concepts. Private balconies are trending, as well as moveable walls, cubicle-style workstations, and spaces equipped to facilitate collaboration between onsite and virtual employees.

Large, operable glass walls are emerging as a durable, flexible and sustainable solution to separate indoor and outdoor spaces and workers. Multi-use space that can function as both indoor and outdoor areas is increasingly popular — particularly for commercial buildings that also house food and beverage establishments.

Hospitality. High-performance ventilation systems and antimicrobial finishes will be an especially high priority in these buildings. Hotel projects are ripe for retrofits and upgrades, which could include replacing carpeting with hard flooring and exchanging shower curtains for glass doors.

Expect expanded patio areas and parking lots, as well as covered pavilions. Both retail stores and restaurants will likely continue to be designed with curbside pickup in mind.

Don’t lose your edge

Call it “the new normal” or simply building design evolution. Contractors should expect changes as the nation and world moves from pandemic to endemic and continues to grapple with climate change. To maintain your competitive edge, keep tabs on what challenges you’ll likely face.

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