We were already living up to 90% of our lives indoors before 2020 hit, but in the midst of a pandemic, we're home more than ever. That's having a big impact on the architecture and design trends we're seeing in 2021, as health and sustainability are having a big influence on residential and commercial design.
2021 Design Trends: Health, Sustainability Lead the Pack
It should come as no surprise that health and sustainability are top of mind for both residential and commercial design projects in 2021. COVID-19 is still influencing design trends in numerous ways, from a need for more live-work spaces to a demand for healthier building design. Political changes are also bringing sustainability issues back to center stage.
Here are some of the trends we expect to see in design and architecture for 2021.
New Administration, Renewed Focus on Sustainable Building
When President Biden took office in January of 2021, one of his first orders of business was to sign an executive order tackling climate change at home and abroad, signaling to the world that issues of sustainability and climate change would be a priority for his administration.
Biden's Clean Energy Plan includes investments in sustainable housing (construction of 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units), sustainable upgrades to 4 million buildings, and innovations in the next generation of sustainable building materials, among others.
Design experts told Architectural Digest to expect to see sustainable trends in 2021 such as "an emphasis on the classic principles of 'reduce, reuse, recycle,' which will manifest in minimalism, DIY upgrades on vintage pieces, and a dedication to reclaimed materials."
Increased Demand for Live-Work Spaces
Last year brought a significant increase in the number of people who work from home. According to a recent study, up to 41.8% of the workforce is now working remotely from home, a number that's expected to double by 2025.
"People will spend more time and effort in designing a unique working space to maximize their concentration, motivation, and productivity," Jing Xue, COO and co-founder of DecorMatters, told Architectural Digest.
"Things like location, colors, decorations, and furniture have a big effect on your mental and physical state. In fact, bright lighting has been shown to make people happier, ambient sounds help people focus, and poor air quality can lead to a drop in productivity."
Healthy Building Design is More Critical than Ever
At a time when we're spending more time than ever indoors, the health and indoor air quality of a building have never been more critical. Healthy Building is sure to become the norm in 2021 and beyond, especially as organizations like the CDC and EPA include improved ventilation and air purification systems as strategies to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in interior environments.
Improving ventilation isn't the only way to create a building that supports or even improves occupant health; check out 5 ways to improve indoor air quality with healthy building design.
Outdoor Living Spaces and Biophilic Design Satisfy Nature Cravings
Our homes became our primary source of entertainment in 2020. We cooked, dined in, and entertained at home, albeit in smaller numbers than before the pandemic. All of that time at home can lead one to feel a little stir-crazy, and why outdoor living spaces and biophilic design are the antidote to the work-live-entertain-from-home blues.
Outdoor spaces are suddenly being used year-long for purposes beyond entertainment and dining. Outdoor spaces -- from spacious backyards to small-space balconies -- are now functioning as home gyms, home offices, happy hour pubs, and homeschool classrooms.
Architects and designers are bringing the outdoors in with an increased focus on biophilic design. Including outdoor elements in interior spaces brings big benefits; studies have shown that exposure to nature can benefit occupants' psychological and physiological health.
Creating a Calming Oasis: Environments that Eliminate Stress
In the wake of a pandemic and its resulting mental health challenges, architects and designers can address mental health and wellness with design elements that soothe and calm occupants.
A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 53% of adults reported their mental health had been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We know that architectural design can have a psychological impact on occupants. Buildings that incorporate architectural patterns can be both pleasing to the eye and calming to the mind; our brains are conditioned by evolution to associate those patterns with safety, security, well-being, and survival.
Bringing in natural elements such as daylight through expanses of windows and skylights, water, and other biophilic design strategies, can have mental health benefits that include reducing depression and anxiety while improving mental health and overall general health.
Everything from space and layout to windows and lighting to paints and finishes can help influence the mood of occupants. And in today's stressed-out culture, using architectural and design elements to calm and soothe occupants will be a top trend.
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