From The Experts: Trends Shaping Architecture and Construction

  • Mar 23, 2016

Changing demographics, economics and consumer behavior impact how our cities and communities are built and how people interact with buildings. We asked three of our experts to give us their take on the trends and forces that will shape the spaces we design and build. From millennials to labor shortages to shopping here are their thoughts:

The Millennial Impact on Work and Work Spaces

Rick Del Monte, FAIA, LEED APChief Design Officer

A trend that I see in the coming year reflects the increasing influence of Millennials in the workforce. We have seen the creation of multiple Innovation, Entrepreneurial and Creative Centers in the Dallas area alone. These centers contain open office areas, collaboration areas, informal meeting spaces, communal dining spaces, and even Shark Tank-like auditorium spaces. We’re seeing the influence of this type of space extend into corporate offices with the same open concept and flexible amenities that work so well in innovation centers.

These spaces are typically designed using natural materials — wood, concrete and exposed structures. Partitions for open office furniture systems are either becoming much lower or being eliminated. The traditional nine-foot high ceiling with 2’ x 2’ lay-in ceilings and four-foot high open office partitions are going away for all, but the most basic administrative spaces. The challenge will be to create this kind of environment in existing mid-to-high rise offices buildings which populate our cities.

How workplaces fit into employee’s lives are also becoming more important. Younger employees want to work in a location where they can walk or ride a bike to work, walk to lunch, and meet friends after work without having to get in a car. And, because it’s becoming very competitive to recruit the most talented young graduates, companies are beginning to pay attention to this need. Downtowns, which have always had this quality, are now becoming popular for company relocations and the suburbs are building major town center developments to create this same environment that attracts talent.


Labor Shortage and Its Influence on Safety

Joe FloresChief Administrative Officer

In my opinion the shortage of labor is a trend that is probably not going to improve in the near future. What makes this interesting to me is not just the lack of these workers, but the consequences associated with their turnover caused by moving from company  or to adjacent industries for higher wages.

While the turnover presents challenges with cultural alignment and keeping up with demand, it also has an impact on jobsite safety.  When there is steady turnover, we cannot assume workers new to our organization are properly skilled and trained in safety awareness and practices. Generally, it’s increasingly becoming our experience that workers simply are not trained to perform at the level we expect. Because this is critically important to our industry and despite it causing strain, we are requiring ourselves to dedicate additional resources to safety training and management to be able to operate at higher volumes and revenue.


The Line Between Offline and Online Shopping Blurs

Michael KaiserPrincipal, Design

As more people shop both in stores and online, I think the line between online and brick-and-mortar retail will blur and that will affect how we design and build shopping centers. For a while now we’ve seen savvy shoppers use smartphones to enhance and coordinate their purchases. According to a recent study by Google, 95 percent of smartphone users conduct online searches with 50 percent of those users likely to visit a store within 24 hours of the search. And of those users, 18 percent make a purchase. Retailers are catching on to the need to be in both places — online and offline.

The question I ask myself as an architect is, “Can we integrate this desire to live between both online and offline shopping into the design of shopping centers?”

Smartphones that brought the customer to the store are also used to navigate the shopping center to find food choices, accessories to go with an outfit or to snap a few photos to show off a new look. Well-designed shopping centers with interesting architectural elements such as towers, fountains, interactive signs and artwork can provide enticing backdrops for people to record their activities in social forums like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. The design of the shopping environment is also critical to getting customers to stay longer once they’ve committed to visiting the store. It’s extremely important to create great comfortable spaces filled with many choices for other activities like food and recreation.

With savvier customers, shopping centers can become a digital hub as well as the physical location of stores. Free wifi and online directories already exist and we could take this one step further. Pop-up notifications could encourage customers to visit similar stores and entice movement from store to store.

These are just a few of the trends that are shaping our work and the spaces we create and deliver. Of course, customer demand and behavior will ultimately determine the impact these trends will have on design and construction in the future.