A lot has already happened in 2020 and it’s only February. We caught up with some of our designers around the firm to see what’s top of mind right now. Here are the trends they’re paying close attention to.
CLIMATE & CARBON
Craig Venter Institute La Jolla, © Nick Merrick
“Whole Carbon” Approach: Embodied carbon, the greenhouse gas impact of a building’s materials production and construction, is one of the most significant opportunities to reduce our impact. “We need to consider a ‘whole carbon’ approach (operational and embodied), with potential emphasis on embodied carbon. Once a building is built, there is no undo button,” says Baha Sadreddin, a Portland associate. ZGF developed an open-source LCA calculator tool in 2019 to conduct rapid assessments of proposed concrete mixes. The tool is already helping us select the least-carbon-intensive options for a building to reduce global warming potential and carbon emissions.
Adaptive Reuse on the Rise: Existing buildings will benefit from upgrades to their energy performance and take advantage of the “sunk” carbon emissions already embodied in the structure and other components. After all, the most sustainable building is the one never built.
A Surge of Material Innovations: We’re also excited about innovative building materials and technologies on the rise that could lead to significant carbon footprint reductions. Think carbon-sequestering concrete, hempcrete, rice-straw MDF boards, bio-cement, and mass timber.
Seattle Children’s North Clinic, © Aaron Leitz
Destigmatizing Mental Illness: Awareness of mental health issues is at an all-time high. The imperative to provide modern, therapeutic behavioral healthcare facilities has never been greater. “Behavioral-health design has the potential to shift the way we design for all healthcare applications, as we focus care on both the body and the mind,” says Seattle principal Kari Thorsen.
Community-Based Care: Many healthcare systems are facing a similar challenge: how to plan for long-term growth and expansion within constrained urban environments. “Wait times for access to care can be reduced if we bring care closer to where individuals live and work,” explains Portland partner Solvei Neiger. “The increase in new outpatient and preventive care facilities will achieve greater proximity to provide that care. In particular, remote regions and underserved communities benefit from these smaller clinics with easier access and improved communication with their doctors.”
Family-Centered Design: Healthcare benefits from the comforts of home. Quiet and light-filled spaces for respite outside of patient rooms or simple amenities like coffee and laundry services can help families maintain a sense of normalcy during stressful or momentous hospital stays. “It is important that the design of these facilities creates a home-away-from-home for patients,” says Jhiah Chang, a Los Angeles principal. “Virtual connectivity solutions, like AngelEye, even make it possible to provide round-the-clock visual and audio access to their child to reduce anxiety and improve communication between families and care teams.”
HIGHER EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
Santa Clara University Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation, rendering
Super-Charging Discovery: The next frontier in laboratory design is all about breaking down barriers and fostering a culture of co-working and collaboration. Research and discovery are super-charged when multiple groups work in close proximity. “Discoveries are made when scientists collide,” says Ted Hyman, managing partner in the Los Angeles office. “Design can foster those intellectual overlaps. Researchers are better able to incubate innovations that could lead to the next world-changing medical discovery by breaking down siloes.”
Expensify Portland Office, © Garrett Rowland
Ultimate Flexibility: Desks are getting smaller. Collaborative spaces are getting larger. With greater flexibility in both space and technology, employees have more choice than ever when it comes to how and where they work. “The more adaptable a space, the more inclusive the environment,” says principal Kent McCullough from our Washington, D.C. office. This idea of ultimate flexibility has become a major design driver, especially in the technology sector, where companies must evolve quickly or fail quickly.
Coworking Continues: “Ultimately, clients are looking for similar objectives in fostering a workplace culture that challenges, enables, and energizes staff,” David Weinberg, a New York principal, says on the phenomenon that is coworking. It still represents the largest shift in office culture since the birth of the cubicle. The shift in focus from design and benchmarking to building community, addressing workplace delivery as a product, and the integration of AI to measure space use remains transformative today.
Blurring Live/Work Amenities: From cozy lounge areas to dream kitchens, the “resimercial” workplace trend continues to blur the lines between the home and office. Given that we spend a third of our lives in the workplace, it’s crucial to design a variety of spaces for working and socializing. “While there are certain fundamentals for successful workplace design, there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” says James Woolum, a Los Angeles partner. “The right strategy comes down to the individual client—their culture, their employees, their space, and their current and future business needs.”
A circulation simulation using computational design tools
All About Occupancy Evaluations: Not long ago, we did occupancy evaluations primarily when a building was completed. “Occupancy evaluations provide insight into how the building’s design and operations affect occupants’ overall well-being, as well as interactions with one another. Pre-occupancy evaluations set a baseline to compare our post-occupancy results against. This comparison will allow us to quantify the impact of our design on the metrics that matter most to our clients,” says Seattle data strategist Dr. Flavia Grey.
Tech Savvy: “Data visualization has become a powerful tool to turn otherwise opaque datasets into meaningful and compelling design insights,” says Dane Stokes, a design technology specialist in our Seattle office. New tools and information allow clients to “see” and “feel” their spaces before they’re built.
Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City, rendering courtesy of Nikken Sekkei
Urban Ecodistricts: “Urban design will be critical to make densely occupied yet carbon positive places. The next generation of urban design supports living harmoniously with nature, provides economic security, and connects people together,” Portland principal Charles Kelly describes. The city itself is a tool to combat climate change and societal inequities. Redefining what “urban” can be is an opportunity to address these major issues.