Commercial landscape design has been growing in popularity for years due to consumer demand for outdoor spaces at restaurants, office buildings and more. After 2020 and its lockdowns, outdoor design is even more important as people look for safer ways to gather, socialize and play.
Luckily, there are certain design elements you can incorporate to ensure your outdoor space is beautiful and usable all year long, no matter the temperature. From pergolas and cooling stations to outdoor heating and weather-proof hardscapes, it’s possible to create outdoor commercial spaces that visitors can enjoy in all four seasons.
Pergolas & Patios
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, designed outdoor spaces were drawing crowds. Especially in large, bustling cities, people crave green space and fresh air. Millennials and Gen Y are drawn to urban areas for the culture, social interactions and professional opportunities, but many times they want to quietly sit outdoors and enjoy them. Outdoor spaces at work have been proven to reduce stress, build teams, increase employee’s physical activity, reduce illness and foster better social interactions.
Even for projects that have limited square footage, designers and landscape architects are utilizing hardscaping elements to create outdoor areas for rest, reflection and reconnection. Include the use of an awning or pergola, and utilization of the space can be further increased.
Modern pergolas often have sliding fabric or rotating aluminum louvered roofs and sides to offer a durable and long-lasting solution. High-quality pergolas offer protection from heavy rain, wind and snow, and are especially effective when combined with heating units.
For summer, you can include ceiling fans to keep guests cool. Or invest in privacy screens or partial enclosures that offer protection from the elements and provide a sense of intimacy.
Including a heating option can be an important component for most commercial projects in North America. If you’re working on a new construction project, including built-in fire pits (that can be repurposed to table bases in the warmer months) are a great option. If space is a concern, many gas fireplaces can be built directly into walls or dividers within your project.
If you’re not working with a new build project, portable, propane-powered heat lamps can extend the life of your commercial space, warming whenever and wherever they’re needed. Additionally, portable fire pits can be included in existing projects or spaces that need more flexibility after, of course, taking safety and local codes into consideration.
Keeping your outdoor area cozy with weather-resistant furniture (increase the warmth by adding heating pads like these ones from Sit & Heat) and lots of blankets is a surefire way to make sure guests and customers are comfortable outside.
Adding ventilated domes for your outdoor space can also be an option. These private pods or domes can be fairly safe as long as they are properly ventilated and cleaned between guests. They keep people safe from outside germs and the elements while having heaters inside the domes offers increased ventilation as air will rise up when it’s heated, allowing fresh air to circulate.
There are three main things to consider when designing an outside space that’s cool in the summer: maximize your shade, use light-colored materials and increase airflow. Look at the entire landscape you are designing to understand where the hottest areas occur so you can create a plan that offers long-term cooling capabilities for future guests.
Misters or cooling stations are a great choice for areas with large amounts of foot traffic and tourists. They can become a welcome break from the stifling heat that many urban attractions content with. However, some guests won’t enjoy a thorough misting, so the traffic flow will need to accommodate an alternative for visitors who wish to avoid it.
For more “natural” cooling stations, think of adding trees. Trees that are able to provide a wide and dense shade will provide the greatest cooling effect. Tree species that have dense canopies and broad, spreading forms include basswoods (Tilia spp.), oaks (Quercus spp.) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia).
In recent years, splash pads have grown in popularity; they're clearly not just for theme parks anymore. Splash pad installations have been identified as highly-desired amenities for different types of recreational environments and they attract and encourage families to stay awhile. They’ve been implemented in municipal parks, family centers, malls and rec centers.
If you install a splash pad, however, it’s important to think of the surface substrate you use. While you want to have a small amount of water on the top, you don’t want big pools of water accumulating on the surface as they can cause slipping or germ growth if they can’t drain properly. Permeable pavements will ensure that water drains properly and can withstand decades of little feet jumping and running without ruining the splash pad’s aesthetics.
Not only are these areas welcoming, but they also offer architects the ability to create multi-purpose destinations. And of course, they are great for cooling down on a hot day.
Your outdoor commercial space has a brand and your landscape design can speak to that. If you want to convey an image, whether that be healing, sustainable, fun, professional, edgy or soothing, there are landscape elements that can help you translate that.
Nothing ruins a meaningful brand message like looking at dead plants. Make sure you keep all your vegetation watered often in the summer and think about protecting your plants with cold-frame greenhouse coverings in the winter. Or, to save on time and effort, only grow seasonal plants in containers on your deck or patio.
Some ideas for plants that thrive in harsh winters are Coneflower, Lily of the Valley, Blue Spruce, Wintergreen Boxwood, Catmint, Pansies, Hostas, Winterberries and Primroses.
Spread compost throghout your plants to provide them with a blast of nutrients to last the winter, and before the first freeze, cover the base of your plants with mulch to protect them from harsh temperatures.
And in order to cut down on watering costs, install a subterranean rain harvesting system (which can be installed under permeable pavements). This system will collect rainwater and store it so it can be used to irrigate your plants, rather than driving up your water bill.
With some upfront planning, you can make a space that can be used for different activities in the winter vs. the summer. For example, take Cherbourg Park. This family-friendly park has multiple playgrounds for all age groups to use in the summer, along with tennis courts, soccer fields, basketball courts, bicycle park, outdoor gym and baseball fields. In the winter, there’s a skating path that goes all around the park, along with firepits (that get used year-round). The best part, however, is the hockey fields: A permanent ice rink, it can be used for ice hockey in the winter and for floor hockey in the summer.
If you want your space to be used in both winter and summer, pre-planning is essential. It’s not just about the equipment you choose, but the pavement and pavers as well. Make sure to choose durable options that can handle ice and snow, especially if you want to take a page out of Cherbourg’s book and use part of your space for ice sports.
Durable Commercial Pavers
When designing commercial outdoor spaces, choosing pavers that can handle heavy rain in the spring and summer, and snow and ice in the fall and winter, is vitally important. The right pavers make all the difference in safety, aesthetics, maintenance and durability. Techo-Bloc’s commercial pavers hit all of those criteria.
All of Techo-Bloc pavers and paving stones are designed to withstand heavy foot traffic and vehicular traffic, resist freezing and thawing with deicing salt, are absent of heaving in cold climates and are color-consistent all the way through.
Techo-Bloc pavers have superior thickness and innovative interlocking characteristics to maintain their durability. We also have many permeable systems to help control stormwater runoff by promoting water retention and infiltration.
Pavements can shift over time as the ground moves, but our pavers are made with strict dimensional tolerances to optimize their interlock in order to form a solid, but flexible, surface that will perform throughout years of heavy traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. This sturdy structure limits settling, rutting and cracking of the pavement as well. Having interlocking paving stones helps ensure that the walkway or patio installed will last for many years to come.
Since lighter-colored materials have a lower SRI, or solar reflectance index (i.e. will not absorb as much heat as dark ones), paving is one of the most important materials to consider for color because it affects ambient air temperatures by either reflecting or retaining heat on the ground surface. So, consider using a lighter shade of Techo-Bloc’s paving solutions in areas with large amounts of direct sunlight.
When it comes to SRI, you want a higher number, as the lower the SRI, the hotter a material is likely to become in the sunlight. High SRI surfaces can help reduce the urban heat island that causes cities to stay warmer which contributes to increased energy consumption for air conditioning systems and air pollution.
Note: Since the overall objective of the SRI is to encourage light-colored surfaces, these colors were not tested either because of their darkness or they were not applicable to paving products.
Techo-Bloc is the only commercial solution with a 5-year warranty that covers deterioration caused by deicing salt. Our products are built to Canadian specifications and harsh conditions, so you can be sure they’ll last through any climate.