Five key trends for heritage buildings in 2021

2021 is the year that we negotiate the long-term changes of the pandemic both in the way we work and the way we use commercial buildings. Here’s what we think we will see in the office trends of 2021, in particular the beautiful office spaces in historic and heritage buildings often used by law firms and other professional services.

1. Health and Safety in the workplace

Pre-2020, health and safety in offices tended to focus just on the basics of fire risk assessments and electrical safety. Coronavirus changed all that. As a result, anyone in charge of a building now has a role to play in preventing the spread of the virus and making their building Covid-secure.

This goes above and beyond a bit of hand sanitiser. It means long-term health and safety considerations such as ventilation systems, safe walking routes and the use of lifts. Health and safety also extend to keeping staff well-informed. Any updates should be reported to staff as soon as possible including an explanation for why the change has taken place. This can help reduce worry and anxiety for staff. This trend will continue long into 2021 and may become a permanent improvement.

2. Interior colour trends

Pantone is the leader when it comes to defining the interior colour of choice for the year ahead. This year there are two: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating.

It’s quite a contrast to last year’s classic blue, deemed solid and dependable. 2021’s colours are fitting after the year we’ve had, described as “a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting”. The perfect antidote to 2020.

We did an Instagram poll to see what everyone thought of the colour for 2021 and 80% would enjoy these colours adorning their walls.

Colour is key to office design, but in heritage buildings, there are further considerations before painting the walls. First, a listed building often requires consent for any changes to the interior or exterior. And then specialist paint is often needed in heritage buildings to avoid any long-term damage to the surface that is being painted.

Here’s a picture of a meeting room we refurbished for a London city law client. We’re ahead of the trends on this one!

3. Restoration first

The climate change conversation is going to be huge this year. As guardians of the built environment, every owner, landlord and tenant have a responsibility to reduce the impact that our buildings have on the environment - as we do too. Working with heritage buildings is a privilege because, as well as retaining the history of the architecture, we are also avoiding a huge and wasteful demolition process.

Though refurbishment does accumulate waste, we recycle and upcycle whenever possible. As a specialist contractor, you’ll often find Sorrel Group team members searching reclaim yards to use existing resources and to retain the character and charm of the building we are working on.

With sustainability on the agenda and COP26 taking place in Glasgow in November, now is the time to look at how we can retrofit buildings and bring them back to life through quality building work.

4. Office technology trends

The return to the office will happen later this year, but ‘business as usual’ has taken a long-term change. So, expect further upgrades for telecoms including more video conferencing facilities and smart technology.

In line with increased attention on health and safety, we expect to see a rise in devices such as air quality monitors. With offices remaining under capacity, we also expect there to be more digital sensor equipment that will automatically adjust lighting and heating, based on the number of occupants in the building.

This is all possible in a heritage building too, but it does require extra care to avoid any damage to the building. All changes should be reversible.

See how we incorporated the latest equipment into a Grade II listed building without compromising the building or the luxury interior.

5. Flexible office space is here to stay

The flexible office space trend can be approached in two ways: a CAT A refurbishment to change the layout of the office, or non-permanent changes, such as partition walls or flexible, movable furniture.

While the country remains under strict restrictions and most of us are still working from home, now is the ideal time to sort an office refurbishment. Projects can often progress faster when there are fewer people affected by the disruption of building works.

The second option is often the best and most common way of making changes to a heritage building. ‘Reversible works’ means the layout can change with trends and can be removed at any point, with no damage caused to the building.

This trend is an opportunity to be creative. Embrace new types of functional furniture that inject a fresh feel into your office. And don’t forget the need for greater flexibility in meeting rooms and event rooms too.

Take a look at this event space we transformed within a heritage building in central London. The space can be divided, and teleconference facilities mean this client is already set up for the new normal.

Which office trends will you be embracing in 2021?

Now is the time to review your current space and to make some exciting and practical changes to welcome in the ‘new normal’. Get in touch to find out more about our commercial interior design service, maintenance packages and fit out and refurbishment expertise.