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  • Cicero Construction

2021 Design Trends for Commercial Buildings Shaped by COVID-19

PLAINFIELD, IL, DECEMBER 30, 2020 -- Predicting design trends for the commercial building industry can be difficult in the most reliable of times, but following 2020, a year of widespread uncertainty, planning ahead has become more complicated than ever before.

Despite this uncertainty, Cicero Construction Group has gathered trend insights to assist building owners in their renovation planning for 2021 and beyond. While the word “trend” may imply short-lived, many of these new ideas being driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as touchless tech, in-room fitness and enhanced HVAC systems, are likely here to stay.

PHYSICAL DISTANCING: Social distancing can be facilitated by wider aisles, while multiple points of entry can help ease circulation, and higher ceilings help with ventilation, reducing the amount of shared air among occupants. Faced with the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic, strategically utilizing floor and wall markers can also help direct guest flow and help guests to maintain proper distancing. Some offices, hotels and restaurants have gone so far as to remove furniture in lobbies to discourage groups from gathering, although this is not a viable long-term business model. A better solution might be to revamp lobbies with multiple, intimate gathering spaces where guests could socially distance with companions, instead of one large area. Rather than bulky plexiglass dividers, textural or color demarcation between areas can define lobby zones and allow people to know where they need to be, which can make them feel safer. TOUCHLESS TECH: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in touchless automation throughout the commercial building industry. Although automatic doors have long been commonplace, in 2021 there will an increase in the use of automatic interior doors to prevent handling of doorknobs. Other touchless tech on the horizon include using mobile devices for digital concierge services, room locks, motion-activated doors, voice control commands, and virtual access to staff.

SAFER MATERIALS: Renovations in 2021 will likely incorporate materials that inherently eliminate germs in high-traffic areas prone to exposure. Viruses may survive for up to three days on plastic or stainless-steel surfaces, yet die within four hours on copper, brass or bronze. Cork is another antibacterial material used as a material finish. Hard flooring rather than carpeting, simple bedding materials in hotels without absorptive items, anti-bacterial materials, seamless and non-porous bathroom surfaces, and limited furniture can promote a safer environment. Done correctly, simple design promotes the reset of a new aesthetic of cleanliness. MULTI-PURPOSE HOTEL ROOMS: In 2021 the guest room may be the most important re-imagined hotel space to consider. Guests will want to realize multiple activities within the room, such as working, eating, exercising, or gathering with business associates and family. With gyms a no-go, in-room fitness will be popular. Sanitized exercise equipment can be brought in at the request of guests, and guided workouts or yoga classes can be streamed on TVs or mobile devices.

KIOSKS: Long before the COVID-19 outbreak, many businesses were implementing kiosks to provide customers with self check-in to order food, reduce wait times, pay electronically, or notify hotel when they have checked-out, all without any close physical contact. As many businesses have begun reopening, some owners are financially unable to bring back their full staff and are relying more on kiosks to facilitate operations while complying with social-distancing mandates. AIR FILTRATION SYSTEMS: Higher caliber air filtration systems are becoming a new health and well-being feature that tenants and guests will be willing to pay up for. In luxury hotels, for example, overhauled HVAC systems complete with HEPA or MERV 16 filters are now seen as a new hallmark for safety. Mechanical engineers will be challenged to find new ways to deliver heating and cooling that limit the amount of shared air. Buildings more than five years old should certainly consider a full review of HVAC systems. Any upgrades can pay for themselves through significant improvements in customer satisfaction. In 2021, building owners will continue to step up to find ways to make their properties as safe as possible and welcome back customers in a post-coronavirus world. To learn more, please visit

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