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Gensler’s Design Forecast 2023 – 10 Trends That Will Change the Built Environment

Gensler’s Design Forecast 2023 – 10 Trends That Will Change the Built Environment
15 February 2023

Gensler has created a top-ten list of meta trends and design strategies that will affect the built environment over the next decade and beyond.


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1. Reclaiming Experience


This trend is all about the value of human interaction in a post-pandemic world. Gensler argues that by prioritising design strategies that emphasise people’s needs and expectations, human experience in the places where we live, work, and play can be reclaimed.

Gensler demonstrated this by interviewing Bob Weis, former Head of Disney Imagineering and new Global Immersive Experience Design Leader at Gensler on the role of experiential design.

He said: “If you go to an airport, it’s not just to get on a plane. Airports are the beginning or middle or end of some important story for people, so what do we do that signifies that for people? That’s the way you think about space from a story point of view. Human stories unfold in place.”


2. Live-Work Connection


Our working lives and personal lives are no longer separate, and the most successful spaces encompass an appreciation of how the two worlds interconnect. Safe and effective public transport, walkable cities and destination offices are all attempts to address this. The 15-minute city concept, where most human needs and desires are available within a travel distance taking approximately 15 minutes, plays into this.


3. Building Transformation


Stranded assets are creating development opportunities that can regenerate cities and transform outdated office buildings into residential living.

Gensler assessed 300 potential Office-to-Residential conversions in 25 cities across North America, examining the value of aging office building stock.

They discovered that features that are unsuitable for offices tend to be desirable in residential settings. For example, a floor-to-floor height that’s typical of a Class C building is approximately 12 feet. Today, that’s considered low for an office, but a ceiling height above 9 feet in a residential building is considered luxurious


4. Attainable Housing


Part of the live-work connection mentioned above involves providing urban communities close to central business districts. These mixed-used neighbourhood can help address the housing crisis and create work/life cohesion.


5. Decarbonisation


Sustainability continues to be a key trend within the built environment, as we see more investment in sustainable design and construction. Developers must minimise the impact of developments in terms of carbon footprint, waste and resources used.


6. Mobility


Gensler predicts that the shift to electric and autonomous vehicles and public transportation will allow cities to redesign underused urban districts into mixed-use live-work communities.

As cities become smarter and more electric, buildings such as fuel stations or car parks may need to be repurposed to better serve the needs of an urban population.


7. Equitable Design


Addressing social initiatives within urban spaces will continue to drive design decisions, according to Gensler. It’s no longer enough to provide spaces that have clear environmental credentials. As Gensler describes it, by addressing the “S in ESG”, the built environment can help address social inequality through designing places that support community outreach and safe spaces.


8. Intelligent Places


PropTech and smart building technology now appear to have moved from “nice to have” to “must have” status in the built environment. Whether that’s motion-controlled lighting, motorised windows or air conditioning that adapts to occupancy, Gensler predicts that smart tech will provide developers with the data and insights they need to design better spaces.


9. Flight to Quality


Gensler’s “flight to quality” concerns how top companies prioritise quality when searching for the right workplace for their staff. The theory is that Class A assets will be the most desirable going forward. This is based on the workforce’s post-COVID expectation of a compelling workplace experience.


10. The Office as a Destination


As demonstrated by the “flight to quality”, office workers are seeking a new mix of experiences, and offices need to be compelling destinations with a diverse collection of spaces.

According to Gensler, the office has an important role to play in the future of work, but only if we curate experiences and design compelling destinations for employees that include a mix of spaces that make it easy for individuals and teams to focus and connect.

Read the full Gensler report here.

Picture: a photograph of a moving walkway at night. Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 15 February 2023


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