The construction industry is being guided and shaped like never before by a multitude of factors such as climate change, inner city pressures, and even the need to find the right work/life balance.
Considering these prevalent issues in the design of buildings has instigated a significant shift in the nature of the architectural interior trends, we continue to see emerging this year. It is no longer just about the beautiful aesthetics. Specifiers are demanding more, and consumers are expecting more.
Here are the top five industry trends we discovered to be materialising in 2019:
Trend 1: An increased focus on sustainability as architecture finds more active ways to curb climate change.
If we are to swerve the impact of global warming, drought, flooding and more, every industry needs to play its part. Construction has long been doing so – but there’s always more that can be done. So, how might we go beyond the requirements of codes like LEED and BREEAM, creating projects that actively combat climate change in the regulation-driven bounds of the everyday?
The principles of passive sustainability can easily be applied to interior spaces and we are seeing more and more of this, particularly in ceiling design in 2019. For instance, highly light-reflecting bright-white ceiling systems can play an important part in distributing natural light throughout a space by reducing a building’s reliance on artificial lighting. Whilst specifying Cradle to Cradle Certified™ systems ensures that all materials used in a ceiling can be reused over multiple lifetimes, reducing waste sent to landfill as well as cutting the carbon cost of transporting lightweight systems to sites. But even then, there’s always more that can be done.
On the way to 2030 and beyond, we should expect more. More natural and recyclable materials. More smart systems that passively reduce energy consumption and increase self-sufficiency. More thinking about how sustainability can permeate every aspect of the build, and in fact, every aspect of our lives. Because if we are to avoid climatic catastrophe within our own lifetimes, we need to get active on climate change right now.
Trend 2: Optimising spaces to give a sense of greater ‘space’ greater than the available footprint.
Current projections estimate that by 2050 almost 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, compared to 55% today. This will place huge pressure on these cities’ abilities to house, employ, cater for and entertain an extra 1.2 billion people. So finding space in the crowd is key.
The younger, affluent demographics living and working in cities are driving demand for amenities like gyms, shops, bars and restaurants. They’re also driving demand for spaces that benefit wellbeing and give them a sense of ‘space’ that is greater than the available footprint, without feeling the claustrophobic pressures of mass-occupancy buildings. And this, at least in part, can be achieved through intelligent design in the ceiling space.
Building wellbeing into a space hinges on a range of factors, from thermal to acoustic. But the availability of light, and the use of seamless curves, striking angles and bright-white, highly light-reflecting ceilings, is a good place to start.
Trends would suggest that city dwellers can overlook space limitations in favour of sleek, contemporary design. Monolithic ceilings, for example, enable aesthetics and functionality to work hand in hand, while reflecting natural light to open up a greater sense of space.
Ceilings can also toy with light or shade and depth or planes, to create the illusion of more space, and prove that compact living can be synonymous with comfort and wellbeing. Ceiling systems that look distinctive and perform exceptionally can turn even the smallest spaces into unique, comfortable, uplifting spaces in which our cities’ inhabitants can enjoy small respite from some of the pressures of inner-city life.
Trend 3: Integrating technology to create smart spaces and enable them to feel effortlessly simple.
Technology is completely transforming the way we use our spaces. Our smart phones are talking to security systems, whilst we are able to rely on smart-watches to remind us to keep our step count and daily water intake up. As technology develops, so does the evolution of the way we use space in the ‘smart city’ which requires complex technology. The real magic of this is making it look simple.
One of the main opportunities for architects is to implement smart technology into new-build spaces during the designing outset. However, even when adding it retrospectively, the hardware that makes smart buildings possible needs to be hidden yet accessible for maintenance. Examples of this hardware are smart LED lighting which uses motion sensors, Wi-Fi-enabled projectors and entertainment systems that linked up to home assistants such as Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa.
As data moves between these systems unseen, it’s up to the ceiling to conceal and blend the technology into the space itself. Whether that’s through monolithic systems shaped around technological features or the use of canopies, baffles and floating ceilings to hide equipment within the ceiling space.
While the eyes of the world are very much on the technologies within our smart cities, we can’t lose sight of the other meaning of ‘smart’ – as to how our spaces look. Architects need to balance form and function as well as usability and aesthetics, whilst shaping these ever-more complex smart spaces to look and feel effortlessly simple.
The possibilities are always evolving and that is where we will always be at. From homes to workplaces, and from retail to leisure and commercial buildings- smart technology is connecting them all. Thus, technologists need to work with designers and architects to ensure the performance as well as the aesthetic of smart buildings go hand-in-hand … and this is where ceilings come in.
Trend 4: The increasing focus on wellbeing and mental space for increased productivity and happiness in the workplace.
The driving force behind increasing productivity and happiness at work is health and wellbeing. As a key component of the sustainability codes BREEAM, HQE, DGNB and LEED, wellbeing depends on factors such as natural light availability, thermal and acoustic comfort, and indoor air quality. In the workplace, this has the tangible benefits of increased productivity as well as happier and more engaged employees.
At home, the picture isn’t so different. Compact urban homes are made more desirable – and valuable – by giving people brighter, airier and more personal spaces to relax. The same principles apply to both work and home, which is why architects will continue to take cues from the home space to build the workspace, especially when those spaces occupy the same development and developers seek to carry through one overarching concept.
Whether the specification is for office canteens or dining areas, or even welcome receptions and lounges, these projects are integrating these spaces into the wider whole. They are no longer considered hideaways but rather opportune places and key parts of the home and workplace. Open spaces that are full of light and brightness, and take advantage of ceiling systems that ‘zone’ noise, give people space to focus without taking them out of the room.
Ultimately, the days of the drab office are over. Workplaces are taking cues from the home, and vice versa. The unifying elements are light, colour and design, with each space reflecting a bigger concept, breaking down the boundaries between home and work, private and commercial spaces, and building a better work/life balance by focusing on wellbeing – making people feel at home, even when at work.
Trend 5: Dissolving the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces.
Architects have long realised the benefits of natural light. It’s one of the cornerstones of wellbeing and sustainability, rooted in the real benefits – health, happiness, comfort and productivity. Together with reducing reliance on artificial lighting, architects are focusing on increasing the amount of glass in the building envelope to deliver these benefits. But how are they spreading these benefits further into their spaces?
The first method is creative ceiling design. Floating ceilings, canopies, baffles and contemporary design can play with light and shade to add depth to a space and spread light beyond window areas. Combined perhaps, with skylights or vents permitting further inflow, this can also create an instant connection between outdoors and indoors. And if artificial lighting is absolutely necessary, creative ceiling design can conceal equipment or make energy-efficient LED lighting into feature pieces – enhancing aesthetics and wellbeing in everything from commercial and retail to office spaces.
Another method of ensuring the availability of natural light is reflectance. Ceiling solutions with class-leading whiteness, alongside intelligent use of open-plan space, can brighten spaces and enhance wellbeing. And while some projects use darker colours, these are increasingly design statements – punctuating breakout spaces, for example. In general, we’re seeing a lightening of ceiling design, with preference for systems that retain their brightness to bring the radiance of the outside world inside. But also in 2019, we’re seeing this go further.
Just as boundaries between home and work are dissolving, we’re seeing more and more outdoor touches on indoor workspaces – extensive use of glass and greenery, flooding areas with natural daylight, improving air quality and thermal comfort, and giving people a greater sense of space.
This is also an indicator of the growing importance of sustainability. Future-focused workplaces, retail, leisure and commercial spaces are bringing indoor vertical gardens and green roofs into their architecture, combining them with natural materials – bamboo, for example – and generous use of glass, to make spaces more desirable to work, shop or relax in. Ultimately, this progression towards more open, transparent, naturally-inspired aesthetics gives us another reason to be cheerful about our architectural future – the rise of living buildings.
As buildings become greener, as ‘living buildings’ bring nature into the built environment, and as the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces dissolve, the principles we design and build with today will be vital. Principles such as smart design and highly light-reflecting ceilings that harness the potential of daylight and spread it throughout brighter, richer and more uplifting spaces that enhance sustainability and wellbeing.