Upcoming Trends in 2024

December 19, 2023 • John Salustri

To say 2023 was an interesting year is to miss the point completely. The issues that the office market currently faces is just one of the hurdles owners and managers have to puzzle out. Otherwise, from supply chain disruptions caused in large part by global geopolitical intrigue to an economic picture that remains cloudy at best, we enter 2024 with a vast array of questions that indeed impinge on all categories of commercial real estate.

It is not surprising that the folks of Gensler see design as a salve on many, if not all, of the above-mentioned woes CRE currently faces. Designers, the firm states in its recently released Design Forecast: The 8 Trends Shaping Design in 2024, “can make sense of complex challenges to create lasting solutions.”

That’s a bold claim considering all that is at stake. But their theory continues: “as war, social injustice, climate change and health crises grow more acute, people desperately want more connection and community.”

So then, what are the eight trends that will bridge the gap between our current states of concern and caution and a the coming year? Here is the deign firm’s take on the question:

Trend 1: Experience Multipliers Pay Premium Dividends. “Phenomenal, visceral and connected experiences.” That’s what Gensler says people want, and they want it in every part of their lives. Experience multipliers and immersive designs, such as a workplace that has the look and feel of a clubhouse, are the key to reclaiming “the human connection . . . and a shared sense of inspiration and belonging.”

Trend 2: Conversions Resurrect Stranded Assets. BOMA International reported recently on the Biden Administrations strategy for office conversions, and certainly the move has made headlines in recent months as more stranded office assets fall to major adaptive reuses. Not surprisingly, Gensler predicts more municipalities incentivizing such conversions, especially “in an environmentally responsible way.”

Trend #3: Sustainable Design Becomes a Non-Negotiable. This is more than energy conservation. Gensler cites intense weather and climate change and the importance of sustainable design to help mitigate risk.  “Higher standards for products and materials, the adaptive reuse of existing buildings, net-zero energy strategies and regenerative design principles will define our sustainable future,” says the firm.

Trend #4: IN: the Future of the Workplace as a Compelling Destination; OUT: Return to Office Metrics. Not only should the workplace be grounded in immersive designs (Trend #1) but next year will see a ramp-up in planning for “spaces that are agile and flexible enough to evolve with the changing demands of the workforce and useful enough to earn people’s commutes.”

Trend #5: Mixed-Use Lifestyle Districts Bring Cities Back to Life. BOMA Deep Dives have long extolled the office as a part of the larger community. Gensler clearly shares that view and notes that monolithic, office-focused downtowns are a “thing of the past.” Mixed-use, vibrant and experience-driven CBDs are the wave of the future, attracting “residents and tourists and [bringing] COVID-impacted neighborhoods back to life.”

Trend #6: Designers Harness AI to Accelerate Ideas and Innovation. It was only a matter of time before Artificial intelligence (AI) made its way onto the list, here, logically, as a tool for designers. “Buildings and spaces designed with the help of AI will be more sustainable, better performing and more responsive to individual needs and preferences,” says Gensler.

Trend #7: Focus Shifts to Ageless Communities and Design for a Lifetime. Our life expectancy is growing, says the report, by more than 10 years over the past 50—and counting. Increasingly then, age-inclusive communities will be the trend this coming year, the watchwords being accessibility and affordability.

Trend #8: 20-Minute Cities Become  Archetypes of Community and Accessibility. BOMA International has provided guidance on the 20-minute city and, as noted in Trend #5, the office as a part of the larger community.  (See The Office Building’s Role in the Optimized City of the Future, July 2021.) in the 20-minute city, says Gensler, all essentials—everything from restaurants to healthcare and education--will lie within a 20-minute reach of vibrant, walkable neighborhoods. Not only is this a recipe for ease and comfort, but, as the Deep Dive indicated, it also fosters equity and connectivity.

Now, all that remains is for the commercial real estate community to bring these eight watershed trends to life.

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