insight • Jun 24 2022

Blending Indoor & Outdoor Design

If we’ve learned anything over the last few years living through the pandemic, it’s that spending more time indoors with others increases our likelihood of spreading and sharing germs. When cities went into lockdown, our world became very small and outdoor activities provided an escape. Whether it was biking, hiking, walking, or rollerblading, it didn’t matter. We craved the outdoors and we missed waving to our neighbors, if only from a safe distance away. In this new design era, indoor and outdoor spaces blend together as one cohesive design experience. 


Bringing the Indoors Out

One design trend that really took off during the pandemic were the outdoor dining spots, patios, and rooftop dining venues in cities all across the country. They first began as makeshift pop-ups to expand dining options while still abiding by distancing guidelines. These dining pop-ups caught on and customers loved it, especially in cities like New York City where these options have become more permanent fixtures. 

This turn to the outdoors is not unique to the dining and restaurant industry. Retail establishments are offering walk-up windows and curbside pickup. In Boston’s Seaport District, a European-inspired outdoor market will offer 40 stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues with indoor & outdoor footprints built around a central courtyard. 

Though many of these outdoor experiences were developed in response to pandemic safety, they also created a sense of freedom in what felt like a stifling world. 


A Place to Breathe

For most office workers, working from home meant they were free to open a door or window or take a walk outside for fresh air whenever they wanted. Now, as workers return to the office, surveys indicate they want their employers to make indoor air quality a top priority and provide greater opportunity for outdoor workspace. 

Employees want assurance they’re working in safe and healthy conditions and not breathing recycled air all day long. And, employers must realize that poor air quality and inefficient air circulation can result in more employee sick time — which cuts into operation costs and profit margins. A well-known Harvard study of approximately 3,000 workers showed that sick leave increased by 53% among employees in workspaces that had poor ventilation. Design improvements of building ventilation systems in both existing buildings and new construction is expected to be a top priority across many industries, with a gentle push from the EPA. According to a recent article, building layout and design, as well as occupancy and HVAC systems all play an important role in how viruses can potentially spread indoors. For workplace environments, this means that companies and facilities management need to make sure that workspaces are well ventilated at all times.

Windows that can be opened partially or fully, more open space common areas, as well as portable air cleaners are additional ways design can improve employee morale and lower the risk of infection in the office. According to Nate Berg of Fast Company, “One of the most significant architectural legacies of the pandemic may be how buildings are learning to breathe again.” 

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