Architecture may be all about space — the creation of spaces, the blending of the built environment with the natural environment — but it’s often about time, too. As Nevada’s architectural professionals look forward to the evolution of design trends in 2021, they see lots of indications that the dramatically changing times in which we find ourselves will shape the buildings in which we live our lives. From reimagined retail outlets and glittering resort casinos to offices that emphasize employee safety and workaday facilities for the Department of Motor Vehicles, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the speeded-up transition to online shopping and online workplaces make themselves felt as architects meet with their clients.
Sustainability is likely to return to the forefront of architectural concerns even as the pandemic wanes. “Like anything else, the effects of any change play out once the human mind understands that there is a new norm. As architects, how we design is strongly influenced by current social, financial, and environmental concerns,” said Angela Bigotti-Chavez, a principal with Van Woert Bigotti Architects in Reno.
The ongoing impact of the pandemic is likely to be felt most strongly in office design, said Eric Roberts, president and chief executive officer of Las Vegas-based Knit Studios.
“I sense that we may see fewer open office designs,” he said. “We’re going to see higher partitions between offices.”
But unlike offices of old with their walled-in cubicles as far as the eye could see, new designs are likely to make more use of glass dividers that maintain an open feeling while providing separation of workers. Even mundane offices such as sprawling DMV waiting rooms are likely to feature increased separation to provide protection to staff as well as patrons, explained Roberts. And air-handling systems will be getting closer attention in new office projects as developers and their tenants focus on good air circulation.
For the most part, design trends in office buildings will be continuations of long-developing movements that have been accelerated by the pandemic, said Windom Kimsey, president and chief executive officer of TSK, an architectural firm with offices in Las Vegas and Reno.
“I think the real impact will be the need for less space and more technology to run a business,” he said. “I believe that this will definitely impact the amount of office space needed in the future.”
Space for Work
As work-from-home practices continue, for instance, Kimsey said offices are likely to include more newly designed space for collaborative work. But offices won’t necessarily provide a desk and space for each individual. Logical as they may appear, those changes create even more questions for designers, said Michele K. Brigida, a principal with Carpenter Sellers Del Gatto Architects in Las Vegas.
Co-working spaces, for instance, will need to take social-distancing measures into account, balancing the need for health with the desire for face-to-face consultation and brainstorming. And even though workers may not be in the office 40 hours a week, employers still want to create an atmosphere that inspires top-quality work from workers who have been cooped up at home for months.
“There’s certainly a newfound appreciation for the working environment,” Brigida said. “Our clients believe things will be coming back to normal, but there is a realization that the entire workforce will not be coming back at once.”
While working from home affects office design, it also will affect the design of new homes. Along with dedicated spaces for home offices, some residential clients have begun to ask architects for separate entrances to the home office. Some even want a small, separate building to house an office on their residential property. Architects are challenged in a work-from-home era to provide enough separation between work and personal lives, said Brigida.
“The majority of us used to drive to and from work. This drive allowed us to prepare mentally for work and transition to that mode, and to decompress on our way back from work and be ready to be with our families. The challenge is how to create and maintain that separation,” she added.
Developers of multi-family communities, meanwhile, wrestle with a difficult issue as they work with architects to design projects that will be built in a post-pandemic world. Before the pandemic, Roberts said developers were focused on community amenities — fitness centers, swimming pools and the like — to provide a competitive edge.
“Now those are all shut down,” he said, and developers are wondering how important they’ll be after COVID-19 goes away.
Even before the pandemic arrived, brick-and-mortar retail was vexed by consumers’ migration to online shopping. Changes in consumer behavior driven by COVID-19 created even more urgency to find workable new models for store design. Today, retail design is moving in two directions, Roberts said. Some retail companies are further standardizing the design of their store locations, hoping to reduce design costs and gain economies of scale.
Other retailers that seek to deliver an experience that consumers can’t replicate through online shopping are working with architects and store designers to create locations that support those experiences. In general, Brigida said newly designed retail spaces are likely to be smaller and function more like service centers — even as small distribution centers.
“Branding and shopping experience to capture shoppers are of growing and crucial importance,” she added. “Retail footprints are being planned for brand display and physical presence mainly.”
And Kimsey said the smaller new retail spaces are likely to incorporate more technology that replicates aspects of online shopping and the take-out models that have grown in popularity during the pandemic.
A multitude of new design concepts is coming to reality in the entertainment resorts of Las Vegas, said Paul Steelman, chief executive officer of Steelman Partners, a Las Vegas firm that works around the globe.
“We are constructing less parking which will make our urban environment much more dynamic,” said Steelman. “These smaller garages are now transportation centers that gather all types of transportation in one location.”
And new garages, he added, are designed so flying cars such as those envisioned by Uber Elevate can land on their roofs. Other new design elements in resorts properties, Steelman said, include year-round swimming pools (outdoor facilities are growing in importance), rooms with a growing number of amenities that can be purchased by guests and spots around the property designed specifically for selfies and other photographs. New casino design, Steelman said, won’t be heavily themed. Those designs require major, expensive renovations when they are upgraded a few years down the road. Instead, newly designed properties will rely on modern digital effects to provide a diversionary environment where visitors can escape the ordinary.
Heavy reliance on digital capabilities extends through new resorts. Convention areas, for instance, are turning into digital product launch theatres, Steelman said. Nightclubs, meanwhile, will play a smaller role in new casino designs, and windows will become more common.
“We are designing within a Las Vegas style. That style is not Venice or Egypt, but its own ‘Vegas Style’ — what people want but cannot seem to describe,” Steelman said.
That spells the end of a design style that Steelman called, “the decorated shed with a story written by many authors.”
Safe, Clean and Fresh
The COVID-19 pandemic will leave its mark on the hospitality and gaming sectors. “Touchless everything is a part of hotel design now, and that will be expanded,” Steelman said.
Metal detectors that incorporate temperature sensors will become common at entrances, he added, while robotic systems will disinfect rooms, and the water in swimming pools will be circulated and cleaned more often. Another change: air-handling systems increasingly will supply fresh air at the floor and exhaust it through the ceiling. That’s the opposite of most existing systems.
“Greg Stevens (co-owner of Circa in downtown Las Vegas) insisted on this method that we had only completed once before in Finland,” Steelman said. “The air smells cleaner at Circa.”
Fresh air — the sort of air that people breathe when they’re outside — will be important in new projects of all sorts, said Dwayne R. Eshenbaugh, a principal in Novus Architecture in Las Vegas and president of the Nevada chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
“People are beginning to take a fresh look at outdoor public spaces,” he said. “We might see some different types of outdoor spaces for the public in the future.”
That’s no small thing, Eshenbaugh noted. Thinking about public outdoors spaces has remained essentially unchanged since Frederick Law Olmstead designed New York City’s Central Park in 1857.
Design of new schools and government buildings, meanwhile, today places greater importance on energy-efficiency and the health of their occupants, said Kimsey.
For instance, hands-free devices for doors and restrooms get closer looks these days. Materials that are difficult to clean and maintain, meanwhile, are falling out of favor.
It may not matter for a while what health and safety requirements are in place for new public construction. As the pandemic created large holes in state and local budgets, many building proposals have been put on the shelf. In response, the American Institute of Architects is urging Nevada officials to continue funding for design of some of the projects proposed for construction a few years from now.
That design work would provide much needed support to architectural firms that were just getting back on their feet after the 2008 recession and would ensure that the state government could move quickly with construction once the economy rebounds, said the AIA’s Eshenbaugh. For all the conversation about the effects of COVID-19 on architectural design, some architectural professionals wonder if the implications of the pandemic will prove to be long-lasting.
The primary subject on the mind of every client today, as always, remains the design of a cost-effective building that is aesthetically pleasing, Roberts said. Some are taken aback at the impact of higher costs for building materials, costs that lead to difficult decisions during the design process.
“Wood prices are tied to a rocket ship,” said Roberts, citing one example. “They just keep rising and rising.” Over the long term — like decades — technology may provide better cost control, Kimsey said. Construction materials, for instance, may be created by 3D printers on site. But in the short term, he has his fingers crossed about rising materials costs.
“Hopefully that will become less of an issue this year,” he said. “I think as architects we will be challenged to design more with less.”
Sustainability, rather than COVID-related issues, is likely to be the big issue driving architectural design in the next few years, said Bigotti-Chavez. That’s a trend driven by budget constraints as well as environmental concerns.
“There is a prediction that the decade will see 90 percent of real estate projects being adaptive re-use,” she said. “This may be the year that marks a heightened awareness on sustainable innovations and focusing on essential needs. It’s a wake-up call on so many levels.”
Even new construction, Kimsey said, may deliver more flexible designs that allow different uses as the owners’ needs change. Over the life of the building, that promises cost savings as well as reduced use of resources.
Architecture that delivers buildings that are sustainable and protect the health and mental well-being of their users require more than the skills of architects, Bigotti-Chavez said. The expertise of psychologists, health professionals, engineers, researchers, environmentalists, and educators all will play a role in the new era of building design. She said the challenges of 2020 provide an opportunity for dramatic changes in thinking.
“The pandemic, like any dilemma, is an opportunity to look at patterns for well-being that impact all building types,” she said. “To go back to what we once knew would be a lost opportunity to do things better for future generations.”
Already, Brigida added, the events of 2020 provided strong evidence to architects that people don’t simply need buildings.
“Ultimately we are social beings,” she said. “Design will continue to revolve around the notion of interacting.”
Red Tape Sherpas – Cutting Through the ‘Red Tape’ Can Mean Success for Your Commercial Real Estate Project
By Melissa Eure, Director of Planning for GC Garcia, Inc.
The commercial real estate and development market in Nevada can be complex, but critical to any city’s efforts to maintain growth. The ins and outs of the process can be tricky, and developers can find themselves in a costly situation, due to unintentional missteps and unforeseen complications. It is important to have a guide to sidestep complications and lead the project all the way from initial concept and due diligence to timely and cost-effective completion. It is important to have GC Garcia, Inc., the Red Tape Sherpas, to guide you to success.
Why “Sherpas?” Sherpas, of Tibetan culture and descent, are world-renowned for their exceptional mountaineering and trekking skills. They have successfully guided many explorers through the Himalayas and are leaders in navigating the various mountains and rough terrain known to the range. In real estate, it is essential to have a commercial real estate and development services team that possesses the knowledge, reputation, and experience necessary to navigate through complex government regulations or “red tape” and avoid the pitfalls that are often associated with it.
A commercial real estate and development services team that fits the bill will possess three key qualities: relationships, integrity and, of course, the ability to guide and adapt to change:
Relationships: Know how to work with people from all sectors. You want a firm that works with you, that becomes a seamless member of your project team. One that takes the time to learn the wants and needs of each client, is responsive, and understands the project, from A to Z. By working collaboratively as a team, we can successfully create tailor-made solutions for the project’s most pressing challenges.
Strong relationships with external players are also key – building and maintaining relationships with every level of government can ensure a much smoother process for all involved.
Integrity: Act with integrity to build stronger communities. To us, a project is not just constructing a building, a complex or a mixed-use property – it is an offering for the betterment and advancement of the community. We act with integrity in everything we do to bridge the gap between the developer, business owners, and city and county officials.
Guidance and Adaptability: We must lead, and we must be flexible. We rely on our 25 years of experience to guide clients through the entitlements, licensing and permitting processes. You need a guide who knows the best route to take, where an avalanche is likely to hit, and where the ice is the thinnest. The goal is to avoid landmines – try to foresee delays or complications so the project team can effectively pivot, saving the owner time and money. We confront the hardships on behalf of our clients to help them reach the top of the mountain.
Applying the Red Tape Sherpas philosophy – relationships, integrity, guidance and adaptability- has helped GC Garcia, Inc. become recognized leaders during our 25 years in business and stay on top of the game during this year’s unprecedented challenges. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, things were changing rapidly, whether it was planning, zoning, building permits, licensing, or processing payments. Getting lost in these changes was easy and, for a developer, often overwhelming, with the development process slowed because of an uncertain future.
There is help available, even during these times. Having an experienced team of Red Tape Sherpas guiding the process, closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on construction and development (for example, the increase in safety measures and Personal Protective Equipment has caused the cost of materials to increase) has helped our clients stay on top of their game and continue to contribute to the economic growth in the state.
The GC Garcia, Inc. is a Nevada-based commercial real estate, land planning and development services firm. Founded by George Garcia, the company is well-established and respected within southern Nevada’s local government and agency circles while recognized as a leader in government and neighborhood relations, entitlements, due diligence, development coordination, permitting and business licensing. For more information on GC Garcia, Inc., please visit www.GCGarciaInc.com