As we approach the end of another year, it’s a good time to reflect on trends we have observed with our projects in particular as well as the construction field in general. The pandemic has certainly affected approaches to building design, from temporary stopgaps to permanent fixtures. At the same time, some of these evolutions were already taking place, with COVID-19 merely accelerating their implementation. Here are three significant trends worth noting:
Closing open spaces: The open office model had already been receiving some pushback due to privacy and efficiency concerns, but the pandemic has added employee health and safety into the mix. Restaurants, stores, and other public-facing businesses had to quickly deploy “six feet apart” signage, plexiglass “sneeze guards,” and other distancing measures to help keep customers and staff safe. During temperate weather, outdoor dining, classroom, and work spaces also helped facilitate in-person education and business. As it became clear that distancing protocols would need to be in place indefinitely, workplaces with traditional offices and cubicles were better prepared for employees’ return to the office. Companies that had previously adopted more open space in their floor plans are considering how they can reconfigure their offices to optimize coworker efficiency and safety.
Blended/multipurpose spaces: While some members of the workplace have had the option of working remotely for years, the option became a necessity for many during the spring of 2020. Going forward, some employers plan to stay fully remote, others have already brought everyone back to the office, and many are choosing a hybrid approach. Between these partially remote employees and the working preferences of Generation Z, tech giants like Google as well as local small businesses are exploring and investing in something of a hybrid approach to office layouts: not a completely open floor plan, but not entirely individual offices and conference rooms either. The New York Times describes Google’s version of this to be “Ikea meets Lego,” with wheeled office equipment and partitions that can be mixed and matched as needed.
Touchless upgrades: Commercial spaces that haven’t needed to completely renovate their layouts or fixtures are making smaller modifications to help reduce physical touching of communal areas and hinder the spread of germs. Widespread adoption of motion-activated hand sanitizer dispensers at building entrances is one very visible example. Shared kitchens, break areas, and bathrooms have also seen improvements on this front. Modifications can range from simple foot-operated door handles (like the StepNpull of Shark Tank fame) to major bathroom overhauls. We’ve certainly noticed this trend in our own projects, such as the touchless sinks and soap dispensers incorporated into our bathroom remodel at Manor College.
The trends of closing open spaces, creating multipurpose spaces, and adoption of touchless technologies are likely to continue through 2022 and beyond. Have your projects seen shifts in these directions? What recent trends have been most impactful to your construction business? Let us know in the comments!