Jumbo glass and energy efficiency continue to be growing design trends, but the COVID-19 pandemic is shaking up other aspects of design. To discuss these trends, John Petersen, director of sustainable design and building innovation with MJM Architects, presented a seminar titled, “Inspired Design Trends for Commercial and Residential Construction,” during the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) 2021 Virtual Annual Conference.
COVID-19 and Design
Petersen said the pandemic has led many clients to ask how architects can make spaces safer with a pushed focus on personal health and wellness, especially indoor air quality. Operable windows play a role in bringing in more fresh air to a building as well as creating a greater connection to the outdoor environment, he said.
In commercial applications, double-skin facades can enable active natural ventilation. For residential applications, he’s seeing full-size windows with parallel opening vents.
“This means that we’re looking at more complex automation systems, hinges and closing mechanisms,” said Petersen, adding that some clients prefer more cost effective operable components.
The Architects Declare movement began in the U.K. in May 2019 and it rolled out in Canada in September 2019. The movement recognizes the climate crisis with a focus on how the built environment impacts the natural environment.
Petersen explained that part of the movement is increased concern about birds colliding with glass. He pointed out that first surface coatings are becoming more prevalent and desired since birds are able to see them better.
Wellness and Energy Efficiency
The International WELL Building Institute and Fitwel standards are defining interior wellness and comfort conditions related to high performance buildings, said Petersen, which is an issue of growing importance among the design community.
Trends related to wellness include biophilia, which involves the creation of visual connections with nature as well as bringing nature inside. This allows individuals to benefit from the therapeutic effects of nature, said Petersen. Diffused light is another focus of wellness.
Passivhaus is another voluntary standard, which emphasizes the importance of creating an airtight building. An air tightness test would be performed so that any problems can be found before the cladding is installed.
Petersen said high performance framing, such as fiberglass curtainwall, allows commercial glazing systems to come into play in the design of commercial-grade Passivhaus buildings.
The British Columbia step codes have stringent energy efficiency codes and Petersen said high performance glazing products such as vacuum insulating glazing and transparent photovoltaic glass will need to be adopted more widely to meet those performance goals.
He also said the industry is beginning to consider embodied carbon—the amount of carbon involved in making and moving the materials for a project—when making design decisions. End of life use is also important and there’s a growing emphasis on how systems can be reused or recycled once their current use ends.
In the residential market, Petersen has noticed that even Pinterest is beginning to impact design. Clients will create Pinterest boards and Petersen said the same photos are starting to show up in multiple clients’ boards.
“That level of algorithm is playing a role in aesthetics and how clients inform their architects of design implications,” he said, adding that one result of that is a desire for jumbo vision glass, a trend in both residential and commercial applications.