What Will (Might) Happen in 2017

Blog - Trends2017
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While we feel confident calling ourselves experts, we’re in no way seers. Still, the start of a new year allows those in a field like ours to look forward with the knowledge of what we’ve learned in years past when it comes to development and what it could mean for the future. Our studio is also lucky to be no slouch when it comes to Principals and Associates with individuals backgrounds ranging widely in the field of architecture and design, all of whom were happy to discuss upcoming trends as they see them, for their city and across the country.

Workplace 2.0

While one portion of the workforce ages and the millennial workforce grows, the demands of a new generation of employees will not only shape the way companies work, but the spaces they work in.

“The formal workplace continues to change and as creative industry workplace demands equal those of traditional FIRE (Financial Services, Insurance and Real Estate) tenants, we will see the demand for new-build workplaces with more character,” says Quadrangle Design Principal, Richard Witt.

The popularity of open concept continues in some sectors, but intermediate forms such as work rooms will reinforce the collaborative culture of the TAMI (Technology, Advertising, Media and Information) tenant ethos. With more people working remotely and the advent of flexible “in-office” hours, combined with sub-80 square feet per person aspirations, more offices will choose to adopt a hoteling strategy, where desks are booked only for the time they are needed, and more space devoted to informal activities.  

Informal workspaces  

More (and more and more) Rentals

With home affordability in Toronto and Vancouver on the decline for the average person (if it ever was affordable in recent memory—and not when a previous Trudeau was in office), the option of renting over owning is a more feasible one for the majority of those who do not already own their homes. Following in the footsteps of larger cities like New York, London and Paris, Toronto and Vancouver will likely see an increase in purpose-built rental apartments being built. Moreover, the ongoing housing crisis in both cities for low-income families and earners will lend weight to a sorely needed push for more rentals. Which brings us to…

Purpose-Built Rentals

If Canada’s real estate market starts to lean toward more permanent long-term rentals, the design of these complexes will have to adapt to suit a wider array of tenants and their needs. Family-sized condos, homes built as duplexes—think the historic walk-ups of Montreal—and not later renovated into them. And development, because of the ramped-up speed of increasing demand, will have to be purposeful. Anna Madeira, a champion of multi-family residential work and Quadrangle Principal, stresses that with more people moving to our big cities, “we need to work smarter.”

“Being in the city is desirable to families and commercial tenants, property is becoming more dear. We need to streamline and be effective in the work that we do by using the best of the city to make it better.”

Jeff Hardy, Quadrangle Principal and leader of the Studio’s design and execution team, believes that people will demand “more holistic communities and developments that incorporate features that support their daily lives—like bigger, better and more commercial and retail spaces offering services like a grocery, pharmacy [and] restaurants.” Even units or whole floors dedicated to initiatives like Airbnb might become a reality in our cities. Hardy also suspects more rentals will lead to the increase of interest of the urban home buyer in "designer buildings that either "look cool" or have a "star-chitect" name attached to [them].”

Laneway with cyclist passing by work-live units

Size Matters

Two contradictory predictions for 2017—larger and smaller housing footprints—could actually both be right. On the large end of the spectrum, those just entering the real estate market might opt for a long-term buy in a condo, rather than viewing it as an entryway into the market. “People who have adequate incomes are choosing to buy larger condo units (rather than smaller houses) with a view to living in them as a lifestyle choice, not merely as a stepping-stone to a detached single-family house,” says Les Klein, co-founder and Principal of Quadrangle.

On the flipside, some retired boomers are looking to downsize from family-sized homes into smaller condo units they can use as a home base, while reserving more time for travel. Mobility issues in an aging population, too, put a focus on thoughtfully built smaller condo units with an eye to accessibility. And the influx of immigrants into the country may have very different unit size expectations for housing. 

Investing in Home Renovations

Another trend dictated by soaring housing prices in Canada’s largest cities is that fewer people are making the move to “buy up,” opting instead to undergo more comprehensive renovations and improvements in the home they already own. Quadrangle Principal and Head of Interiors, Caroline Robbie, sees the era of minimalism and open plan waning. “People will want to divide their activities into escapist zones,” so she sees the need for reading rooms without the distraction of technology, and separated kitchens. On the aesthetics side, Robbie predicts deep tones coming back in a big way—British Racing Green and deep indigo blues—on the heels of ubiquitous white and blonde minimalism, plus more patterns, handmade details and metal finishes.

Virtual Tools Rule

With the increase in virtual technologies, and virtual technologies themselves being made more readily available for keeners and luddites alike, there could be a big uptick to how and when the architecture and design industry uses these tools. Virtual tours of suites and model homes could reduce or eliminate the need for showrooms and clients will become more involved in the design of their brick-and-mortar spaces using virtual walkthroughs throughout the design process.

Virtual Tour Image

Demand for Green

As hydro costs rise and technology becomes more affordable, value propositions for LED lighting, green rooftops and energy conserving appliances become far easier to make. New systems in waste management and energy conservation with the aim of achieving zero-impact buildings will be driven by concerns over climate change here at home and around the world.

Sami Kazemi, Quadrangle Principal, is curious about how these concerns will shape the future look of our cities:

“Concern for durability and energy performance along with more stringent energy requirements will reduce the use of window-wall cladding system and extended balconies currently ubiquitous with condos in Toronto. It is not clear what the new archetypal condo tower will look like. The coming years will be a great opportunity for architects and developers to help set the bar high and allow Toronto to demonstrate what the next generation of multi-unit residential towers look like.”

Boomers Downsize

“Retirement-only zone” sounds like something you’d read on a novelty sign slung up next to one that read “Margaritaville POP. 1,” but with the aging Canadian population, dedicated housing built with the needs of older boomers and soon-to-be retirees in mind could be the next identifiable development trend. These could be high-end condos or rental units, reimagined bungalows, multi-unit complexes with healthcare, retail and nightlife options close at hand all to support the lifestyle of the aging urbanite.