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  • Gensler Forecasts Changing Design Elements for Commercial Properties

    Gensler recently released its Design Forecast for 2024, which discusses substantial changes coming for the design and construction of commercial buildings and workspaces. The comprehensive report deep-dives into twenty specific project types after highlighting eight general emerging trends affecting commercial construction. As the new “building success model” continues to evolve, architects and contractors will play a pivotal role in transforming commercial properties to attract and retain talented employees.

    Gensler suggests that many companies opt for less square footage in lieu of creating flexible spaces that can be easily customized to meet the specific needs and preferences of different companies and employees. These changes are required to address property owner concerns regarding market volatility, emerging technologies, and hybrid work environments. These changes signal a future where companies must continue evolving their business model, customer offerings, and workplace environments to remain cost-effective and competitive.

    Flexible designs that can quickly adapt help create a more comfortable workspace that reduces employee strain and stress while increasing worker productivity and efficiency. These design strategies include traditional options, such as modular furniture, workstations, and demountable partition systems. Gensler recommends that architects and designers consider the following three emerging trends.

    New Workplace Considerations for Hybrid and In-Person Workers

    A successful mixture of formal and informal workspaces within an open-plan environment gives workers greater flexibility to meet with team members and customers. These “zones” have a more free-flowing layout and can include the following:

    • Breakout/collaboration areas for smaller, more informal networking and brainstorming groups.
    • Cafes/lounges that provide a comfortable space to collaborate and connect with coworkers.
    • Conference/meeting spaces that support both in-person and remote workers.
    • Transformable workspaces that can adapt to meet changing staff levels and space requirements.
    • Multi-use areas that can serve multiple needs and workgroups.

    Advanced technology continues to play a prominent role in designing highly competitive workspaces. As a result, more companies increasingly use emerging technologies to lower maintenance and operational costs. Integrated communication tools should serve the needs of remote and in-person workers working with prospects and customers. Advanced security systems can control building access, such as cameras and card swipe stations, to keep workers and customers safe. Smart building control systems can help reduce energy costs when an area is unoccupied.

    Many existing buildings use traditional cabling solutions where the cables are hidden above ceilings and within the walls. Compared to a flexible and adaptable cabling distribution system that provides quick and easy access to data and power cables, these buildings suffer higher construction costs to perform needed infrastructure upgrades. Low profile access floor systems can reduce future construction costs by moving the data cables to a more accessible location under the finished modular floor covering.

    The Gridd Power® option further enhances flexibility by incorporating an integrated 50-amp modular bus system within the access flooring system to replace obsolete power cabling. This unparalleled infrastructure flexibility allows changes or a complete space reconfiguration in weeks instead of months. The steel construction provides the needed strength and durability while improving LEED scores and addressing sustainability concerns.

    Design for Company Culture and Employee Personality

    Company culture is the sum of its behaviors, interactions, attitudes, values, and traditions. Culture is essential since it strengthens or undermines company objectives and goals. A positive workplace culture is critical to attracting new talent and retaining experienced employees while improving employee engagement and satisfaction. Design elements that promote a positive company culture can include.

    • Dedicated fitness centers, meditation areas, and on-site daycare
    • Natural light, views of nature, green walls, and indoor plants
    • Support for remote and in-person workers, ergonomic workstations, and adjustable task lighting

    By addressing worker preferences in the built environment, companies can reduce employee stress to promote productivity and efficiency. According to Deloitte, commercial properties that include areas for promoting physical and mental health typically outperform and are generally more successful than those that don’t.

    More Emphasis on Localization 

    Localization uses local features and community interests to enhance commercial property amenities. For example, suppose an office complex is near a community landmark such as a ballpark. In that case, they might incorporate flavors of that resource into the space to strengthen community connections and branding efforts.

    Localization is also crucial to the 20-minute city model for updating business districts. In this model, walkable neighborhoods include the essentials such as employment, dining, medical services, schools, and retail spaces within a 20-minute walk.

    Changing Commercial Design Elements

    Employee expectations have risen dramatically over the last five years, increasing the demand for commercial buildings with high-end amenities and distinctive design features in desirable and safe neighborhoods. As more companies realize that the workplace has forever changed, their focus will shift from square footage to creating more agile and flexible workspaces designed specifically to meet evolving employee expectations and requirements. As more architects, designers, and contractors embrace the changing commercial design elements outlined above, the number of community “building success models” will increase. These design changes can be incorporated into new construction, maintenance, or renovation projects to create properties with the flexibility and adaptability that companies, and their changing workforce demand.

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