100 years ago, half of the country’s population lived in rural areas. Today, more than 80% of Americans live in cities. We’re employed in different industrial sectors than we once were. And robots have rendered unnecessary tasks that once required human labor or knowledge. Let’s take a look at how these facts of American work life and other broad movements drive trends in commercial development.
Even More Urban Development
With four of every five Americans already living in urban areas, we don’t expect another dramatic farm-to-city migration. As two of the largest generations, baby boomers and millennials, seek access to city amenities at an ever-increasing rate, steady urban growth is expected to continue. This is a trend we’re also noticing in suburban areas, where mixed-use developments are growing in popularity, building up is cooler than building out, and public transportation links to city centers are in high demand.
Office, retail, multifamily, hotel, and special-purpose ventures all vie for centrally located urban land, driving up prices and the pressure to use space efficiently. Brick-and-mortar retail spaces hurt by the growth of e-commerce sales are experiencing a squeeze, while luxury communities and tech firms move into or build over recently vacated space. Another type of development gaining urban ground is live/work space.
Growing Role of Technology
Technology is changing the way general contractors build, as well as the layout of commercial spaces. Some startups are designing workspaces to revolve around the technology that drives their business. Others are favoring open floor plans that encourage productivity and increase accountability in the workplace.
Last, we’re continuing to see a shift in the materials used in new construction projects. Recycled and renewable materials, ranging from steel to straw, are more readily available and widely used than they were just a few years ago. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program provides incentives for sustainable development. Already, 70,000 LEED-certified projects have been completed. The WELL Building Standard, a new measure designed to promote the health and well-being of building occupants, should spur even more eco-friendly renovations and constructions.
This is an interesting moment in the evolution of commercial construction. Keep your eyes peeled for these and other changes you notice!