By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc., Architects
It is time for architects to consider the needs and lifestyles of Millennials in our design process.
We’ve already seen some of this in office design—most tech firms use an open space floor plan devoid of the cubicles of the past. Many incorporate relaxation amenities, such as places to lie down or put your feet up, exercise or play equipment, and break rooms with high quality food and beverage choices (no more stale coffee, water cooler and vending machines). In fact, break rooms have become full kitchens. Creative space with whiteboards or wipe-off walls are a normal part of collaboration spaces. Conference rooms can look more like living rooms with sofas and a large flat screen on the wall, instead of a huge table surrounded by chairs. Outdoor landscaped areas and indoor plant scaping is a common feature of the work environment. These amenities are clearly worker-friendly and appeal to the Millennial mentality of work/lifestyle balance.
Other changes to office design are meant to increase productivity, such as multiple electrical outlets for portable devices and charging, wi-fi availability, better lighting fixtures and access to natural light, and improved communication systems.
More companies are allowing employees to use mobile devices—tablets and pads, smart phones—to do their work, email, and communications rather than be tied to a desk. Millennials are just as fast on touch screens as Baby Boomers are adept on a keyboard. Millennials want flexible work hours and are comfortable checking their devices when they are away from “the office”, whereas many Boomers want to disconnect when they are away from “the office”. What if office space were designed less to be a place where people “go to work” and more of a place where telecommuting workers “come to meet”?
In home environments, Millennials seem to be moving away from the traditional single family home with a yard (not to mention white picket fence). They flock to urban environments with lots of entertainment choices, living in apartments or shared houses, and consider the nearby parks, clubs, gyms, and other venues within walking distance as their outdoor space. This dispenses with the need for lawnmowers and other home maintenance costs and chores and encourages social interactions at locations outside the home. We’ve also seen increasing popularity for smaller, right-sized homes rather than the “McMansions” that were trending a while ago.
One thing we’ve noticed that Boomers and Millennials both have in common is our love of pets. We have designed a lot of pet-friendly spaces, including Wag Hotels. These are upscale board and care facilities for dogs and cats that are designed to mimic hotels for humans in accommodations, activities and levels of amenities available. We predict that more apartment and multi-family residential facilities will become pet-friendly in the future, as more architects incorporate systems, materials and finishes that take the needs of pets and pet owners into consideration.
Millennials also seem to be letting go of the automobile as an extension of themselves. Boomers are very auto-centric, and our built environment reflects that, with roads, highways, and parking playing a major role in land-use and infrastructure decisions. Many Millennials are perfectly content to bike, take public transit, or use car-sharing or car-hailing technologies when needed. Some don’t own cars because it is an inconvenience to search for parking in an urban environment. Car ownership does not provide the hop-in, drop-off-at-the-door convenience of Lyft or Uber. In a future where less people own cars, we may be able to change zoning ordinances to require less land and costs devoted to parking lots and parking garages. Imagine neighborhoods without driveways, garages and carports. Imagine drop-off/pick-up zones and a lot more Wifi hotspots in waiting areas. The design possibilities and opportunities are exciting.
As architects adapt their designs to reflect the tastes and needs of Millennials, we will soon see major changes to our built environment, and it is something to look forward to.