Even prior to the pandemic, designers and architects were talking about flexible workspaces that encouraged wellness by connecting with nature and the outdoors. COVID-19 has only accelerated this shift in corporate office design trends.
The average person in the U.S. spends 90% of their time indoors where, according to the EPA, some pollutants can be up to five times worse than outdoors. Spending more time outdoors not only promotes healthier living, research suggests it may also help boost productivity.
Many companies are looking for ways to enhance safety measures while also improving employee engagement and overall wellbeing. Adding functional outdoor workspaces can help do just that. Here are five outdoor workspace trends to consider for your commercial property.
1. Structural Features
Admittedly, there are climates where outdoor workspaces are more conducive, and some exterior working environments may only be practical during certain months of the year. Adding structural features to outdoor areas can help extend seasons and minimize discomfort by protecting against the sun, wind, or cold.
Strategically placed pavilions, pergolas, sunshades, or canopies serve dual purposes, providing relief from the elements and adding architectural interest. Consider using living walls made of greenery to offer privacy and shelter. Another trend in commercial outdoor spaces takes a cue from restaurants that shifted to outdoor dining during the pandemic and offered “meeting spaces” with patio heaters, domes, and shelters.
2. Functional and Fashionable Outdoor Contract Furnishings
Commercial outdoor furniture design has come a long way since the days of concrete benches and glorified patio furniture. Contract furniture manufacturers are combining form and function with eye-catching designs. Whether providing an outdoor break room and dining area or setting up small meeting spaces and outdoor workstations, it’s important to offer the same comforts and ergonomic considerations as indoors.
Trending outdoor contract furnishings feature clean, curved lines that are ideal for larger spaces because they provide a sense of movement. Durable finishes may be accented with natural, course materials that fit well in the outdoors. However, rather than neutral tones, many designers are opting for expressive shades to stand out against the natural backdrop. Using neutral tones on furniture frames and adding pops of color with outdoor cushions and pillows allows property owners to change color palettes easily and economically.
When you can’t go out, go up! Rooftop gardens are ideal for commercial facilities that have space constraints. Imagine shifting from the two-dimensional world of Zoom to holding meetings in a lush rooftop garden surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. Some businesses go so far as to include edible gardens that grow fresh produce for use in their cafeterias.
Adding a rooftop garden to an existing structure must include safe and easy access, proper railings, an appropriate roof membrane and surface finish, and additional waterproofing considerations. Because of the additional weight from soil, planters, pedestrians, and irrigation tanks, consulting a structural engineer is a must to confirm the roof’s load-bearing capacity. An advantage of new construction is that these considerations can be included as part of the design and building phases.
4. Transitional Workspaces
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to creating outdoor spaces. Some commercial building designs incorporate wall systems that open up to an outdoor patio area when weather allows, yet can remain enclosed when seasons change.
These multifunctional areas may feature expansive sliding glass doors or overhead doors that lead to exterior workspaces. They allow fresh air inside, provide an expanded view to the outdoors, and also expand square footage for those who wish to venture outside. When closed, they provide the same security, safety, and energy efficiency as a regular glass wall or door system.
5. Bringing the Outdoors In
In addition to providing outdoor seating, some organizations choose to create indoor natural areas to enhance the workplace. Some easy ways to do this include adding natural elements such as wood and stone features or areas with abundant natural light that allows for the installation of plants and trees.
But innovative designers go a step further and consider nature as part of the design and building process. For example, rather than cutting down a statuesque tree to make room for a building, architects might use it as a design element and build a structure around it. With this approach, landscaping no longer becomes an afterthought; rather, it becomes an integral part of a building’s design.
These types of outdoor design innovations for building or renovating commercial structures require a holistic approach where the architect, designer, construction manager, and general contractor all collaborate together and share the same vision. That’s the approach that The Samuels Group takes with each project. Contact us today to explore design options and ways to incorporate natural elements into your building project.