Jane Embury, Director, looks to the design of interior retail space
Earlier this week we wrote that looking back is also an opportunity to look ahead with a new perspective.
That’s true for individuals, companies or countries as we begin to struggle free from Covid-19.
It’s a perspective that has shifted, with the pandemic making us think and behave in new ways.
For example, there’s research evidence that many of us will continue to follow some aspects of social distancing, at least in the medium-term. In particular, avoiding crowded places such as cinemas, theatres or busy shops.
Longer-term, how will that affect the interior design of buildings, especially retail? Not only to meet changed perceptions now, but to potentially deal with any future pandemic?
While designers are split on the issue, everyone seems agreed that, locally, retail will see a reasonable recovery. People will want to support local businesses and their local communities.
Isolation has, however, underlined how important physical connections are, not just to people, but also to places.
For retail, we’ll be likely to go back to retail outlets that have offered us a greater experience. The hedonistic aspect of retail therapy isn’t going to go away.
But maybe we’ll choose to visit those shops when they’re unlikely to be busy, in the early morning or evening. That could extend opening times.
But for mundane purchases, shopping online has become ingrained. For those everyday retail brands without a strong presence online, click-and-collect or delivery services, the future looks breaker.
But offline retail experience will also change. Some stores might take everyone’s body temperature when they enter, and continue to offer hand sanitiser. Some might incorporate ultraviolet light that, at certain periods, could be used to kill germs, viruses and bacteria.
But to create space, or the illusion of space, retailers will have to resort to clever interior design to maximise display areas. Interior design will also create subtle barriers to prevent crowding. In time that may mean more touch screens and, perhaps, augmented reality.
The new retail will make better use of light, including ambient light, to create a sense of space. It will also incorporate air purification and ventilation.
We will no longer have to push through doors, because we won’t want to unnecessarily touch handles and we’ll probably want to see one-way systems in busier shop areas.
Taken together, changes to interior retail spaces will be made gradually. Shops will want to first better understand changed customer expectations or behaviours.
But as interior retail spaces evolve, so too will the requirement to incorporate new levels of fire safety.
The safety of buildings is now a government priority, with every aspect of safety having to be considered and recorded. If anything goes wrong, at any time in the future, named individuals can be held responsible.
All our systems are fully guaranteed and, important, all have been tested as one compatible unit.
In other words, the glass and its framing system have been tested together because, if either the glass or its frame fails, both fail.
In the new building normal, with a greater focus than ever before on fire safety, that guarantee of compatible safety is more important than ever.
Those contracts reflected our specialism in the design of high-performance steel glazing systems, particularly if they have to mitigate against terrorist attack, or withstand high wind-loads. That last consideration was a vital part of the specification for Ocean Terminal which required a large-span configuration.
But many specifiers don’t pay enough attention to the fact that a fire can start on either side of a fire-rated glazing system. In other words, the glazing system will provide protection, but only in one direction.
It’s an issue of particularly importance for the retail sector, that Wrightstyle has successfully solved. We recently conducted a milestone fire test that now provides a new level of fire safety.
The steel and glass advanced curtain wall system offers a new level of fire protection because the test was carried out with the exterior building surface facing into the furnace.
This made the test significantly more demanding on the system components. But it also now means that the system has been tested to be dual directional fire resistant.
In a shopping centre that could be important, both inside a shop, or to prevent fire spreading to other retail outlets.
The new normal will take us all some time to get used to and, in some respects, nothing will be quite the same. That goes for the retail sector and the changed requirements of customer experience and safety.
It’s a new retail normal in which advanced glazing systems will have an important part.