Building design trends heading into 2021

January 14, 2021

As Covid-19 became an ever-increasing worldwide health crisis in the first quarter of 2020, demographic, societal, and technological influences drove rapid changes in building design. As a result, multiple aspects from layout to material choice to environmental integration have been impacted.

The pandemic is driving major shifts in the design of spaces within buildings. This includes the provision of fresh air and ventilation, increased monitoring of the internal environment, maintenance and cleaning activities, as well as revised procedures for entering and using buildings.

Proper outdoor air distribution with increased ventilation rates is also required to reduce pathogen build-up in the air.

The lockdown imposed due to the pandemic has resulted in many people working from home while utilising the latest technologies for digitising business communication and processes such as video conferencing. Key demographic trends predicted to have a major impact on residential design include flexible workspaces for more work-from-home employees, coupled with a larger household size as children stay at home longer, or young adults share a home with their parents to reduce living costs.

Environmental survival and climate change have become more pressing issues than ever, and are strongly driving the move to sustainable and even net-zero energy buildings.

Some of the key emerging trends in the building sector include:

A MOVE TOWARDS GREEN BUILDINGS: For both residential and commercial developers with more disposable income, the idea of Green Buildings is taking off, largely due to the demand for more energy efficient buildings and sustainable building practices. New trends cover the full building envelope including a focus on achieving structural efficiency through material selection, optimised orientation, and structural component utilisation. In this sector there is a strong predilection for net-zero energy buildings, where the production of renewable energy is sufficient to cover all required energy consumption.

SELECTING ‘BETTER’ MATERIALS: The push towards greener buildings has placed more focus on the materials selected, and the level of transparency provided by product manufacturers. This includes assessing the material’s life-cycle impacts from beginning to end, monitoring recycled content, and identifying the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability. This new focus has seen an uptick in quality craftsmanship as manufacturers pair superior materials with tailored workmanship to achieve long-lasting and distinctive designs.

FOCUS ON IMPROVEMENT OVER NEW CONSTRUCTION: In the residential sector, construction spending is reflecting people’s desire to stay and improve rather than move and start again. The same trend is evident in many commercial buildings due to the continued reduction of usable prime space for new construction.

DURABILITY: Increasingly extreme weather conditions such as wildfires, hurricanes, hail and floods have forced improvements in structural durability and resilience towards these destructive natural events. A large part of the improvements made to building durability is focused on exterior roof and wall solutions which can offer superior water infiltration, wind uplift or fire resistance properties.

With these emerging trends in mind, we are seeing a few recurring factors driving preference for coated steel amongst both home owners and architects.

EXPANDING AWARENESS OF HOW METAL CAN CONTRIBUTE TO GREEN BUILDINGS: Metal can contribute to green building approval through its recyclability content and high reflectivity which can help to reduce the ‘heat island effect’ which designers are always looking to minimise.

GREATER FOCUS ON METAL’S RESISTANCE: Metal has clear advantages across a range of criteria including hail resistance, fire resistance and wind uplift performance.

CLOSER SCRUTINY ON LONGEVITY: Metal generally performs far beyond warranted periods, even with minimal maintenance. The long-term value (read “durability” and fit for purpose lifespan) of metal sheeting is being compared to that of a 30-year warranty on solar panels and other building envelope components, in order to assess replacement cost and real ROI.

‘COOL’ COLOURS AND SRI VALUES: ‘Cool’ colours include paints with special pigments designed to improve thermal reflection in order to reduce building cooling costs.

This is best expressed in the Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) where a higher value implies a more reflective surface.

USING LRV FOR ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRATION: If the light reflected is too bright or obvious, the Light Reflectance Value (LRV) or glare will hinder integration. These issues can be resolved by choosing certain shades, textures or matt paint finishes.

NATURAL COLOUR SELECTION: There is an increasing preference for neutral colours which allow a building to blend in with its surrounding environment, and which won’t go out of fashion in the coming decades.

Thus far Covid-19 has had a remarkable impact on building design and looks set to impact the sector well into the future. From the drive for cleaner air within buildings to using greener materials and practices for residential and commercial developments, the pandemic coupled with the effects of climate change are rapidly changing the industry and creating new trends in the process.

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