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In the past, architecture for commercial spaces focused mainly on functionality, expansion, flexibility, and of course, cost-effectiveness.  The focus has shifted drastically today where commercial workspaces need to inspire creativity, drive productivity and encourage growth. Successful commercial space design requires a unique blend of out-of-the-box creativity and a pragmatic approach to ultra-practical functionality. These days, form and function must complement aesthetics and brand activation whilst remaining in compliance with budget limitations, project timelines, material requirements, and ecological impact.

Today’s most relevant topics — from the health crisis to climate change to social dilemmas — need to inspire ideas for innovative commercial building and workspace designers. 

Here are 5 trending design elements that can raise the bar for your commercial workspace designs in 2022 and beyond.

1. Interior and Exterior Fusion

Seamless and fluid connection from a building’s interior to its exterior is a real design benefit. Today’s creative minds are designing effortless transitions between inside and outside identities of their structures with elements that tie each feature together. This could involve decorative glass panels, custom-designed wallcoverings, geometric 3D installations, different seating formulations, interactive surfaces, and other elements that invoke each company’s branding and culture throughout their commercial architecture designs.

2. The Internet of Things

We live in an environment where the IoT (Internet of Things) increasingly governs how we engage with daily activities and tasks.   Commercial architecture and interior design must now account for the mod-cons that are expected in the new “smart” commercial space.  But one does need to take a practical approach to this flood of technology and not get too carried away.  A designer needs to consider how and where users will want to digitally engage with their environments to book online, access personal accounts, find an interior destination, or adjust the temperature, lighting, or ventilation settings.  Furthermore, these interfaces need to be adaptable to embrace the ever-changing inclusion of tech into our daily lives. This transformation allows new room for creativity in how these elements are deployed since it’s the occupants themselves that are controlling preferences, and not necessarily facilities personnel.

3. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

The trend toward green architecture and design is accelerating to a crescendo as the strive toward cleaner and more sustainable environments takes center stage amongst society at large. Home environments, workspaces, and the movement between the two are constantly evolving to include technology that makes a cleaner existence easier with the primary focus on sustainability. Innovations such as PVC-free materials, daylight-amplifying glass surfaces, and post-consumer recycled building materials can be critical elements in your eco-toolbox.

4. Broken-Plan Spaces

The open-plan office trend of the early 2000s took on renewed importance during the pandemic as the need for social distancing required workspaces that allowed for a safe distance between occupants.  Equally, post-pandemic commercial spaces need to provide for members who are working in the new hybrid format of working from home/remotely some days and in the office other days. This highlights the need for an adaptable, modular, and multi-purpose workspace that suits the needs of the unique workers on each day of the week as well as adapts to new incoming technologies.

It is also now clear that the “open-plan office” has serious shortcomings when it comes to noise, privacy, and “warehouse” aesthetics. The broken-plan layouts that have trended in residential designs for the past few years are now making their way into commercial architecture and interior designs. The broken-plan philosophy can be likened to a more complex open-plan that incorporates subtle separations, space-defining decor, and partial changes of vertical and horizontal levels in the interior.  The workspace, like working relationships, needs to be interconnected.  It cannot be one big, cavernous space.  Designers can achieve this using texture: steps, wide spaces, narrow spaces, angled partitions, inclusive seating and desking layouts, decorative glass film, different ceiling heights, different colours, and different wall finishes.

5. Controlled Daylighting

Reduced artificial lighting lowers energy consumption, reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Sunlight has also been proven to aid in productivity and worker morale. Designs that incorporate glass walls to invite natural light into the deep interior, but also have drawbacks.  These include the feeling like one is on display to the outside world as well as UV damage to interior items, as well as sunburn for stationary workers.  

Solutions to these issues include attractive and sweeping commercial window graphics, frosted or gradient films, UV protective tints, and even electrical polymer films that switch from clear to opaque at a touch of a button.  These offerings can help a designer strike the perfect balance between natural light and the needs of occupants.  As an added benefit, decorative window graphics are a powerful statement and design element that can create an inviting and attractive space with branded, themed, or abstract imagery.

These five design elements may take commercial architecture designs to the next level, but they’re just the beginning.  Problems invoke solutions, solutions require ideas and ideas need good, solid, workable design.