The pandemic has left its thumbprint on commercial real estate design. It has accelerated already budding design trends, like flexible use, natural lighting and ventilation systems, but the pandemic has also catalyzed new design concepts that help to combat the risk of viral infection.

"Since the pandemic, spaces within commercial buildings are incorporating designs that allow for social distancing, such as workspaces that are staggered or all face the same direction, increased distance between seats in conference rooms, and the installation of plexiglass in spaces where people interact close to each other," Patrick Winters, president and principal of Nadel Architecture + Planning, tells "Touchless building systems for elevators and restrooms, an enhanced focused on sanitization, anti-microbial materials and technology, more stairways (particularly in smaller offices and buildings), and additional entryways and exits to prevent crowding in these places have also become increasingly common."

Asset classes with density, common areas and foot traffic will be the most affected by these changed. "It makes sense that the product types with the most design changes going forward will be those where people tend to congregate closely and in large groups because the risk of transmitting a virus is higher in these environments," says Winters. "During the pandemic, we saw the biggest challenges for CRE taking place in the retail and hospitality sectors, so we are likely to see more design shifts in these sectors in the future."

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Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure and more.