Commercial Real Estate Design Trends to Watch in 2024

This new year brings anticipation for what’s to come with commercial design trends, some showing tremendous growth possibilities even as others begin to fade. With hybrid work and sustainability taking center stage post-pandemic, biophilic and eco-friendly designs are poised to thrive. In contrast, we may see a decrease in ultra-minimalism, monochrome and industrial design styles.

In the next 12 months, expect trends promoting inclusivity, collaboration and wellness. The following design movements are ready to inspire.

Biophilic Design

This interior design isn’t a new style but rather an ever-evolving architecture intended to promote comfort, sustainability and wellness. Biophilia transforms built environments into calming havens by connecting people with nature’s tranquility. The style incorporates natural materials, earthy tones, organic shapes and natural light to mimic the outdoors and bring it inside.

Beyond mere aesthetics, biophilic elements are intended to create soothing atmospheres that support health, well-being and productivity — making it especially beneficial in busy, high-traffic commercial settings. Expect to see more biophilic workstations, collaborative outdoor spaces and green roofs incorporated across offices and other commercial areas.

The calming ambiance biophilic designs provide is vital in today’s often hectic workspaces. Incorporating nature’s peaceful qualities promotes relaxation and restores mental focus for improved concentration and creativity.  

Many different commercial spaces use biophilic designs.

  • Offices can incorporate natural elements like plants, natural light and materials, and views of nature. Standard features often include green walls, indoor gardens, natural wood finishes and, of course, ample windows.
  • Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare settings use biophilic elements to help create a healing, nurturing environment for patients, such as nature-inspired artwork and views, green spaces and sunlight exposure.
  • Biophilic malls, stores and restaurants aim to provide a refreshing shopping experience by adding living walls, plants, natural light and nature-based design themes.
  • Hotels, resorts and other hospitality-focused properties leverage biophilic design to help guests feel calm and rejuvenated. Features include open-air lobbies, indoor water elements, organic patterns and shapes, and access to views of nature.
  • Schools and universities have implemented biophilic principles to foster better learning environments through elements like courtyards, gardens, natural lighting and nature-inspired decoration.
  • Airports, train stations and other transit spaces also use biophilic finishes, indoor greenspaces, and plenty of daylight to create inviting atmospheres for travelers.

Enhanced Inclusivity and Accessibility

This year, ensuring equitable access and welcoming people of all abilities remains a primary commercial design focus. Everyone deserves equal, safe access to navigating life and built environments — something required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including the ADA Title III provisions requiring equal access to commercial facilities and public spaces. Enter universal design principles, which incorporate versatile, flexible design features so all have a positive user experience.

Examples of inclusive design principles and solutions used in commercial spaces include:

  • Prioritizing wheelchair-friendly entrances, exits, automatic doors, ramps and elevators.
  • Designing accessible restrooms with ample space and features (touchless sinks and toilets, for example) for people with disabilities.
  • Architecting clear pathways with appropriate audio, visual and tactile signage for safe navigation and wayfinding.
  • Providing adjustable workstations and desks to accommodate varying mobility needs.
  • Creating quiet zones with strategically placed acoustic panels and lighting enhances comfort and reduces sensory overload.
  • Installing tactile ground indicators and stair nosings with good color contrast.

These thoughtful, inclusive design choices allow companies to show their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). By considering the needs of differently abled individuals, commercial spaces provide a welcoming experience where everyone can navigate comfortably, work productively and feel a sense of belonging.

Eco-Friendly Practices and Sustainability

The built environment contributes about 26% of greenhouse gas emissions — and 37% of combustion-related emissions — (or 14.4 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide) globally every year. Prioritizing sustainability and eco-friendly practices in commercial design is, thus, critical. And as environmental consciousness grows, so has the demand for sustainable design and green building integration in new and existing construction.

Incorporating renewable energy, responsible waste disposal and other green principles preserves natural resources while improving occupant well-being. Adopting a green building approach also provides a competitive edge commercially, with green buildings seeing a 9% greater asset value, reducing water consumption by 20% to 30% and CO2 emissions by up to 30%, and generating average cost savings in year one of 10.5%.

Specific green design strategies gaining traction include:

  • Energy efficiency through LED lighting, smart HVAC systems and thermal insulation.
  • Water conservation with low-flow plumbing fixtures and rainwater harvesting.
  • Renewable energy via solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal wells.
  • Eco-friendly, non-toxic building materials like bamboo, cork and wool.
  • Indoor air quality optimization via proper ventilation and air purification.
  • Waste reduction features such as recycling stations and composting.

Bold Design Elements and Vibrant Colors Abound

Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2024 is Peach Fuzz. “In seeking a hue that echoes our innate yearning for closeness and connection, we chose a color radiant with warmth and modern elegance. A shade that resonates with compassion, offers a tactile embrace, and effortlessly bridges the youthful with the timeless,” said Leatrice Eisman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute™.

2024 will see vibrant, playful colors dominating commercial design. Neutrals and muted palettes never go out of style — but bold, lively colors are in. Expect designers to use dynamic, saturated hues as focal points against neutral foundations. Pops of radiant pinks, oranges and lilacs against understated, minimalist backgrounds create interest and energy. Trends include:

  • Brightly colored feature walls as graphic art murals or painted accents.
  • Vibrant patterned flooring in entryways, lounges or collaborative areas.
  • Statement artworks in striking hues as focal points in lobbies and offices.
  • Playful upholstery on chairs, booths and benches.
  • Bold and colorful architectural lighting fixtures.

Purposeful punches of color boost creative energy, spark inspiration and enhance aesthetic appeal in commercial interiors. Against balanced neutral backdrops, vibrant accents create a playful yet polished look.

Integration of Innovative Lighting

Rapid technology advancements enable designers to integrate innovative smart lighting into commercial spaces. Smart lighting provides several benefits:

  • Energy-efficient occupancy sensors automatically turn lights on and off according to who is (or isn’t) using a room, lowering costs.
  • Adjustable color temperatures create zones, with cool hues to help employees focus in work areas and warm hues inviting relaxation in common areas.
  • Motion-activating sensors enhance security by triggering lights in response to unauthorized people entering specific areas or zones.
  • Programmable systems clearly light pathways during emergencies for safe, efficient evacuations.
  • Mobile and voice control allows personalized lighting experiences for user convenience.

Smart lighting improves navigation, safety and convenience via enhanced visibility. We can leverage these technologies to build better-shared spaces and energy-efficient infrastructure. Intuitive lighting control also provides data to optimize operations. Sensors give insights into room usage, while systems can self-adjust based on daylight and seasonality. As the technology evolves, smart lighting promises even more ways to create responsive, sustainable environments.

Other Design Trends to Watch

Over the next few months, we’ll talk about other design trends tapping into the adaptable space, with wellness and innovation trends topping the list of popular commercial features for 2024. Those trends include:

  • Wellness-focused workspaces — including WELL Certifications.
  • Turnkey labs for the growing number of life science organizations expanding their commercial footprints.
  • An increase in sustainable space development within dense urban environments.
  • Plans designed to preserve area green spaces and their history while also modernizing.

Are you a commercial real estate investor or looking for a specific property to meet your company’s needs? We invite you to talk to the professionals at CREA United: an organization of CRE professionals from 92 firms representing all disciplines within the CRE industry, from brokers to subcontractors, financial services to security systems, interior designers to architects, movers to IT, and more.

Related Articles