2020 has been a whirlwind for practically everyone and every industry, but especially for offices, retail stores, restaurants, and real estate. As health guidance and regulations adjusted throughout the year, many of us shifted to new ways of working, shopping, dining out, and living. Many workplaces are empty — or close to it — and some retail locations and restaurants have closed down entirely. 


So if you’re wondering what 2021 has in store for commercial design, you’re not alone. Will it be different? In some ways, yes. But the good news is, we’ve come a long way. As we learn more about how the virus spreads (and get that much closer to a vaccine), companies of all types can better adapt and transform into a safe environment for customers and employees. Keep reading, and we’ll explore some of the trends we’re seeing for the year ahead.


 1. Additional Outdoor Space 

As communities continue limiting (and completing shuttering, in some cases) indoor operations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more businesses turn to design and architectural firms to expand their outdoor space. In particular, restaurant design has taken a swift pivot to focus on developing or adding patios, rooftop areas, and more to accommodate al fresco diners.


Offices and other commercial buildings are also looking for creative outdoor space ideas, including shared terraces and outdoor break/lunch areas.   

Outdoor restaurant dining

2. Frameless Glass

As commercial design trends bring the outdoors in, architects and commercial builders will need to get creative to ensure the space remains flexible as well as still usable as the seasons change. Installing frameless glass systems is a great way to do this, as you can create multifunctional areas that enhance your square footage on fair-weather days but can be easily closed if needed. 


With Cover Glass systems, for example, you don’t just benefit from a glass product, but also a system that is performance-tested against the elements of Mother Nature, solid objects, and sound. Once the system is closed, there is essentially nothing — whether tangible or intangible — that can penetrate through. Whether you choose a gorgeous sliding glass door system or a counter-height glass window system, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your system is fully weatherproof and designed for top-of-the-line safety and security.

Cover Glass frameless doors at a restaurant

3. Greenery & Nature 

Direct outdoor space may not be in the cards for every building, but in those cases, we’re still seeing commercial designers leaning into the idea of bringing nature inside. The popular “biophilic office” refers to the design trend of incorporating plants, living walls, and other greenery into the space, as well as natural features like wood and stone. When implemented well, you’ll feel like you’re outdoors without actually being outdoors. 


What explains the shift? Numerous studies, including a 2014 study done in the UK, have shown that employees are happier and more productive when they’re surrounded by nature. Experts believe that biophilic experiences can reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and enhance mood and creativity.

Office with plants

4. Enhanced Air Filtration Systems 

As we learned more about the spread of COVID-19 throughout this year, it became more important for businesses to invest in their air conditioning and filtration systems. It’s been proven that good ventilation is a key to reducing spread, and building owners would be wise to improve their setup. Experts recommend investing in systems that extract stale indoor air and filter in fresh outdoor air instead of systems that recirculate the air. As the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points out, these measures should be in conjunction with reducing overall occupancy, as well as taking the layout and design of the building in mind. 


As we continue learning about the virus’ transmission, we anticipate seeing more guidelines and regulations set for commercial properties, especially new builds. Additionally, as workplaces determine their “new normal” moving forward, we may see changes in typical commercial floor plans, such as using glass partitions to establish an open-but-not-too-open layout.

Office with glass partitions

5. Eco-Friendly Elements

We mentioned environmentally-conscious design in our commercial design predictions for restaurants in 2020, and we don’t see it going anywhere in 2021. More and more consumers realize the impacts of their actions on the environment and use their money to support their values. Restaurant, retail, and other commercial industries absolutely need to keep this in mind as they’re making architectural and design decisions, as it could make or break their success. 


Eco-friendly commercial design ideas include:


  • Incorporating energy-efficient lighting, including switching to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and allowing for more natural light
  • Investing in water- and energy-efficient appliances, especially within restaurants
  • Switching to solar-panel energy
  • Installing energy-efficient windows and doors, such as those with low-e technology

LED lightbulbs

6. Integrated Technology

Even before the pandemic, many industries were working with teams, customers, and clients across the country, and in some cases, the world. While communication channels were important then, they’re even more critical now. And all of the advancements in technology, we’re seeing commercial builders, architects, and designers incorporating these elements from the very start now — not just as an afterthought.


Common integrations include:


  • Devoting specific rooms to teleconferencing screens and digital whiteboards
  • More elegant cable management
  • Additional outlets and plugs in every corner of the room, on tabletops, etc.

Office with a digital whiteboard

7. Industrial Style

Another commercial design trend that’s been around for a while and isn’t going anywhere is industrial-style architecture and decor. From metal furniture to exposed utilities and brick walls to raw wood elements, industrial-style offices pair well with the biophilic trend, creating a unique and creative environment full of personality.

Industrial style coffee shop

Get Started with Cover Glass

Looking for more inspiration for your next commercial project? At Cover Glass, we work with architects and builders to install frameless glass for commercial businesses, designed for any and all types of projects. View our gallery of commercial projects for inspiration, schedule a showroom visit, or request a consultation, and one of our friendly reps will be in touch!


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