Optimising the outdoor environment on retail and commercial sites

Posted on 11th March 2024

Optimising the outdoor environment on retail and commercial sites

The design of outdoor spaces surrounding retail and commercial buildings is crucially important to the site’s long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability. This article explains the multiple benefits that can be realised by property owners and developers when external spaces are well-conceived, innovatively designed and constructed using class-leading quality products.

As an experienced manufacturer and supply partner of many of the world’s most respected street furniture designers, Bailey Street Furniture Group (BSFG) helps clients leverage maximum value from outdoor spaces. Over 35 years, the company has worked extensively with clients across the UK to optimise external environments, but with continuous innovation driving an ever more diverse choice of street furniture options, coupled with evolving trends, there are always new opportunities to explore.

To realise the full benefits, however, it is important to ensure the core considerations which underpin the design and construction of outdoor spaces in the retail and commercial sectors are addressed. Whether the site is occupied by individual shops or restaurants, a retail park, shopping centre, industrial park, car showroom or something else, there are several dimensions to the design which apply to all.

Functionality and design

How does the proposed design of the outdoor space contribute to a positive customer experience, and make it easy and convenient for visitors, shoppers or employees to access businesses? Aesthetic aspirations can be balanced with practical objectives when the right street furniture solutions are deployed, meaning that the best of both worlds can be achieved as BSFG’s project at the Angel Central shopping centre in Islington demonstrates.

Strata Beam Seating at Angel Central in Islington, London

Within the BSFG portfolio are a variety of highly adaptable product ranges to meet the specific needs of any project, offering versatility without compromising functionality. A variety of ranges within the Artform Urban collection, for example, including Lakeside, ensures total styling consistency for a seamless aesthetic. But many different individual products can be customised and combined to great effect too, including seating, litter bins, planters, canopies, playground equipment and cycle parking.

Promoting sustainability

Creating outdoor environments in a considered way can be instrumental in improving the overall sustainability of a business because it can facilitate behaviour change and enable building users to engage more with nature. It can also ensure an organisation can achieve biodiversity objectives per its environmental policy.

Businesses located in urban areas can aim to reduce the number of customers, staff and visitors who travel to their site by car through the provision of high-quality cycle parking. Innovative facilities such as the Streetpods from BSFG company Cyclepods help to inspire confidence amongst those who are concerned about the security of their bike when they arrive at a public site, and additional elements such as cycle shelters go even further. An example of how successful this can be is a project within Milton Keynes town centre where 87 Cyclepods were installed.

Streetpods secure cycle parking in Milton Keynes

Sites should also be designed to encourage people to walk there. This will be achieved through the thoughtful planning of routes from external footpaths, including ensuring they are correctly lit, clearly signposted if appropriate and furnished with facilities such as seating, litter bins and canopies for longer walkways. This can help contribute to the creation of vibrant, walkable communities.

Finally, the environmental sustainability of the site will be boosted by incorporating planters into the master plan due to how they can help create new natural habitats for plants and insects. This was one of the client’s aims at a retail park in Leicester where Bailey Streetscene provided the Inspira Planter System in Corten with integrated seating.

Inspria Planter and edging system with integrated seating at Fosse Retail Park, Leicester

Products such as the Inspira and the numerous design-led options provided by Artform Urban ensure there is a style of planter to suit every site.

Bespoke design with brand integration

The nature of many of the solutions available from BSFG means it is possible to customise street furniture in many ways, whether that is in terms of size, colours or material choices. However, there is the potential to go much further and incorporate branding into street furniture elements to achieve outdoor spaces that extend a corporate brand or develop a unique brand, especially for the area.

Bespoke branded Box Litter Bin at Wellington Place in Leeds

Designing the outdoor spaces with integrated branding is an ideal way to achieve consistency with the building itself and make a clear statement of the connection between the two. This can play an important role in marketing and engagement with customers or staff, enhancing brand visibility so it is immediately noticeable on entry to the site.

For many retail brands, having the ability to feature logos and visual cues in their outdoor space can be extremely powerful. Coupled with well-designed lighting and signage, outdoor areas immediately adjacent to a retail outlet can become key to attracting customers and setting their expectations before they reach the store.

Boosting community engagement

Having the ability to customise street furniture also provides the opportunity to involve the local community in the design of an outdoor space, either by inviting people to submit ideas or running a competition for the creation of a brand. This was demonstrated in one of BSFG’s recent projects at Altrincham High Street which involved a local artist working with the community to produce plaques on the seating that were a nod to the area's industrial heritage.

Curved Seating with bespoke Brass plates - Altrincham High Street

Creating a safe and secure environment

With the right choice of street furniture elements and site design, outdoor spaces can be created to offer a high level of safety and security without compromising visual appeal, sustainability or useability.

The BSFG range provides several solutions to prevent unauthorised vehicles from entering sites, either accidentally or with the deliberate intention of causing harm, including a wide variety of bollards and barriers. An excellent example of their use within a retail environment is a project delivered by Bailey Streetscene at a retail park in Doncaster which provided a solution that is both discretely protective and attractive.

Illuminated mitred top stainless steel bollards - Wheatley Reatail Park, Doncaster

The Protect range goes further. It is an extremely robust collection of street furniture products including planters and seating which can be used as an effective HVM (hostile vehicle mitigation) measure.

Providing the correct level of lighting is crucially important too, enabling building users to feel safe when walking or cycling through the site in the dark. Amongst the solutions available are the FGP Illuminated Bollard from Bailey Streetscene and a variety of different path lights, pedestrian lights and bollards in the Artform Urban range.

BSFG provides several options for creating safe places to store bikes, such as those available from the Cyclepods range.

Maximising accessibility and inclusivity

Another important consideration when designing outdoor public spaces is accessibility for people with reduced mobility and wheelchair users. Provision for everyone regardless of their physical abilities should be the overriding design goal, particularly as our population ages, and this can be achieved by specifying appropriate street furniture products, such as accessible picnic tables, and providing regularly placed seating with armrests to help elderly customers.

Box Litter Bin and Multiplicity Seating - Moto Service Station, Rugby

The choice of seating designs offered by BSFG provides site owners with the scope to create spaces suitable for all to enjoy, which is exactly what the brief was for a recent project at the MOTO Rugby Service Area site.

Achieving standards and regulatory compliance

Remember too that the quality of the outdoor space around a commercial or retail building is important in many of today’s building design codes, best practices and sustainability initiatives. All the street furniture and cycle parking solutions available from BSFG comply with relevant regulations and standards, which ensures they satisfy the legal requirements associated with the design of outdoor public spaces.

Heron Shelter & stainless steel cycle stands - Fosse Retail Park

In addition, the use of BSFG street furniture within a site can also enable higher standards for responsible urban development to be achieved. Internationally recognised sustainable building systems such as BREEAM, which places a strong emphasis on a site’s ability to contribute to ‘health and wellbeing’ and ‘land use and ecology’, favour well-designed outdoor sites.

Find out more about how BSFG can help create perfect outdoor spaces for retail and commercial developments at www.bsfg.co.uk.

Crowd Outside