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Here are the three hottest trends in commercial architecture

Expect to see more of these in Colorado workplace design


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While Denver’s booming residential real estate market is making national news, Colorado’s commercial development is also worth watching. According to the recently released American Institute of Architects (AIA) Consensus Construction Forecast, U.S. commercial building construction spending was up over 16 percent in 2015 compared with 2014.

Continued growth is expected this year, and Colorado’s major cities will be part of that growth. As more commercial buildings are designed or re-designed, we will see three major trends in local architecture: next generation sustainability, workplace wellness and holistic design.

Next Generation Sustainability

“Sustainability” has long been a buzzword in the building industry. More than 20 years ago, the U.S. Green Building Council was established to help advance sustainable building practices. The LEED rating system was unveiled in 2000 and has been the hallmark of the industry ever since.

But today’s environmental-friendly design takes sustainable building farther than ever before. We’re no longer focused on basic additions like energy efficient lighting. Instead, we’re pushing commercial construction towards carbon neutrality; implementing water conservation, using solar and wind power generation, specifying innovative building materials such as composites and new glazing technology, and far more resilient design.

Wells Squier, AIA with Golden-based Anderson Hallas Architects, thinks we’ll continue to lead the charge: “With the expanded adoption of the International Green Construction Code throughout the state, I believe Colorado will continue to set the bar for responsible and sustainable design.”

Workplace Wellness

In 2015, the United Health Foundation named Colorado as one of the ten healthiest cities in the U.S. The state is also ranked first in physical activity and second lowest in diabetes prevalence. Commercial architecture will help us to maintain those rankings into the future.

Most prominent in corporate workplaces and offices, wellness-centered design includes greater use of natural lighting, insulation to control noise levels, awareness of and respect for biophilia (the bond between humans and the natural world), and long-term ­­adaptations based on expanded use of wearable health technology.

The newly developed WELL Building Standard, a rating system designed by the International Well Being Institute (IWBI) to measure and monitor building features that affect human health and well-being, will help to steer workplace design in the coming years. Just last month, a bank in Toronto was awarded the first WELL-certification in North America.

Holistic Design

Put simply, to design holistically is to carefully consider the bigger picture. It’s an acknowledgement that any property ― commercial or residential - is interconnected with its surroundings and function.

“I hope a focus on holistic design and cultural importance will be key design trends for ‘everyday architecture’ and not just big public projects,” says Christy Riggs, AIA with 308 LLC in Colorado Springs. “A building with a well thought out identity and purpose will always be successful.”

Colorado Springs has a unique opportunity in coming years to apply holistic design to the redevelopment of the Drake Power Plant site, planned to be decommissioned in 2030, which is near downtown and at the crossroads for traveling to west to the mountains.

Though some find onerous, Boulder’s building height ordinances are an example of purposeful holistic design at work. In 1971, Boulder established its first building height limitation of 55 feet, to preserve residents’ view of the Rockies and better incorporate architecture into the natural environment.

Holistic commercial design means contemplating everything from the views of the building from all perspectives, to the public message a building sends with its design. Historical significance factors into holistic design as well.

For instance, in Fort Collins the city’s architectural landmarks are an ongoing topic of conversation. The city is grappling with how to preserve historic sites like the Avery Building and the Armstrong Hotel, and how to ensure that new commercial construction does not detract from Old Town’s aesthetic beauty, yet allows for creative, innovative designs - which continue to define the city as it evolves and grows.

Looking Ahead

Colorado has a rich history of respect ― respect for the health and well-being of our bodies, respect for our natural environment, and respect for our communities. It’s thrilling to see those same sentiments reflected in the design of our commercial buildings. In the coming years, our public and commercial architecture will be defined by a new sense of place and purpose.

(Editor's note: This sponsored content was provided by American Institute of Architects (AIA) Colorado.)

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Ken Thomas

Ken Thomas, AIA, is president-elect of the AIA Colorado South Board. He is an architect with CSNA Architects in Colorado Springs, an architecture firm with experience designing public and higher education facilities, resorts and hotels, research laboratories, manufacturing facilities and other commercial buildings across the country. Learn how AIA architects are shaping Colorado at www.aiacolorado.org.

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