Delivering a Great Outdoors Fit for Today’s World
Posted on 9th March 2021
Covid has led many of us to re-evaluate our relationship with the outdoors. Isolation and social distancing measures which have limited what we can do outside of homes and workplaces has resulted in many regarding an hour per day outdoors for exercise as a godsend. There has been a renewed appetite for people to spend as much time as possible in outdoor public spaces. Parks, cafes and high streets with facilities to gather, sit and exercise were busier than previous years throughout 2020’s summer months even when indoor socialising was permitted.
So how do we ensure our outdoor spaces are designed and equipped in a way that further enhances their value and potential, and supports more people wanting to enjoy the great outdoors?
Re-invigorating town and city centres
The way we engage with outdoor spaces in the UK is always changing. More recently, café culture has boomed in the past 20 years which means we’re now well-accustomed to sitting at tables on the pavements or courtyards outside coffee shops and restaurants – even when the weather isn’t so great.
We are constantly hearing about the decline of bricks and mortar retailing. The pandemic may have accelerated what was a relatively gradual trend of shrinkage, but the future offers hope for physical stores.
One post-pandemic theory is that we might see a more people-friendly public realm around places where we congregate to shop, eat and socialise. The traditional retail hook of high streets – the major stores like Marks & Spencer and John Lewis – will no longer be so important as independents return and thrive.
We’ve already seen streets reconfigured with wider pavements, and others made completely pedestrianised, so more people can use the high street whilst feeling safe and not crowded. Social distancing in public spaces, whether enforced or by choice, will live long into the future. But rather than this presenting challenges, it offers opportunity with huge scope to get creative in order to provide the facilities and services that will keep people coming back.
A collaborative approach to the public realm
Bailey Street Furniture Group’s creating outdoor spaces together’ ethos perfectly encapsulates how we can get the best results in urban renovations and new development projects. Through collaboration and knowledge-sharing design ideas and innovation can be brought to fruition with the right products and solutions.
It follows a simple vision – to build a better world by creating stimulating and functional outdoor spaces, that allow us to thrive and enhance our everyday lives.
Whether it is outdoor seating, planters, litter bins, shelters, cycle stands, displays, play equipment or gyms, the design potential for our streets, courtyards and plazas is almost unlimited. But to get the best results, it is worth taking a step back and considering how these solutions can best be deployed to meet the needs and preferences of end-users.
TODAY’S KEY GOALS FOR PUBLIC REALM DESIGN
Creating sustainable communities
With the urgent need to address climate change, every landscaping and urban design scheme has to be built around sustainable design principles, but how can these goals be elevated to better fit with the circular economy?
Sustainable manufacturing and raw materials should be at the forefront of decisions about street furniture and other streetscape elements. Using only timber from sustainable sources and manufacturing in a resource-efficient way, with recycling and waste reduction maximised, is a given. But we must also look towards material innovations, including composite and processed wood products like Thermowoods, which may offer more tangible carbon savings of the life cycle.
Every product specification needs to consider cradle-to-grave thinking – what impact do materials, processes and applications have on our resources and environment? Alternative material choices for an element of street furniture could make a significant difference, such as choosing aluminium over galvanised steel.
Design which encourages more sustainable behaviour should also be key. A prime example is cycling, in which there has been a growth in the popularity since the start of the pandemic. Public spaces in towns and cities of the future, therefore, as well as any local high street, public building or large workplace, should feature appropriate cycle racks and shelters. After all, anyone making the switch to a cycle commute or weekly visit to the city centre will be encouraged to continue doing so if they can be confident there is somewhere to park their cycle safely and securely.
Designing streetscapes to include more planters and trees will also encourage biodiversity which is so crucial in urban environments, and assist with rainwater management. These small steps are not only beneficial from an environmental perspective but having more greenery can also have a positive impact on people’s mental wellbeing.
Security and anti-terrorism
Given the continued terrorism threats we face, our public spaces must be designed to be resilient, but that needn’t mean deploying crude devices such as utilitarian barriers or concrete blocks which often compromise aesthetics and lessen the appeal of urban landscapes.
Engineering and design innovation allows us to integrate hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) barriers into our streetscapes and plazas almost unnoticed in the form of planters, seating and other elements. Inspira Protect, for example, is an IWA rated modular retaining wall system, which is perfect for creating visually appealing raised planting schemes in any location.
Inspira Protect is available in a wide variety of finishes and sizes to meet the requirements of any site, but its structure is reinforced throughout to effectively obstruct hostile vehicle attacks. From the reinforced modular panels and increased supports, to fully welded reinforced corner sections and shallow mount foundations, Inspira Protect’s engineered qualities deliver a robust solution that is both practical and flexible.
The connected world
Technology ‘s role in our daily lives is only set to increase. But being outdoors should not mean becoming disconnected, and if fact with the latest innovations in street furniture the reverse is the case – we can actually be assisted throughout our day in new and inventive ways.
Developments in smart technology are supporting the growth in the use of personal e-scooters and e-bikes, which demand an effective infrastructure to make them a viable option for low carbon urban transport. Smart parking and charging stations already link to smart-phone apps already give users the vital information they need on availability and pick-up/drop-off locations, but that is just the start.
Smart shelters can be integrated into public spaces to give instant access to support services or important public information such as severe weather alerts 24/7, and smart benches offer users facilities such as wireless or USB charging for their phones and a WIFI hotspot – all solar powered. And then there are numerous options for smart car parking, such as where drivers can be notified in real time where their nearest parking space is located, saving time and fuel.
All these smart technologies can be brought to fruition using street furniture that incorporates the devices needed to build a network. Anything is possible with the range of solutions available from Bailey Street Furniture Group, including Artform Urban’s Plateau SunHub picnic table, which incorporates charging points and lighting, plus bespoke solutions through the company’s internationally-renowned smart city partners.
Street furniture has come a long way in the last 20 years. Today both the Bailey Streetscene and Artform Urban ranges offer products that enable architects, landscape designers and clients to create visually stunning outdoor spaces, with elements such as litter bins, seating and planters adding to the aesthetic whether contemporary or traditional in tone.
Take the Inspira modular planting system. This modular retaining wall system makes creating raised planting schemes in any location easy, complemented by matching seating. Inspira’s three ranges – Linear, Form and Bespoke – suit every design goal and are available in a wide variety of materials, finishes and sizes. Its ease of installation also makes it a quick and cost-effective addition to street, courtyard and roof terrace developments – perfect for urban areas, retail parks, residential complexes and educational facilities.
Taking the office or classroom outside
Whilst all parts of the UK may not have a year-round climate that makes outdoor working and learning practical all of the time, the pandemic has encouraged more of us to try these activities outdoors as much as we can. Equipping spaces practically is important to make this possible, not least with canopies that are fit for purpose.
As experts in canopy and walkway design, manufacture and installation, Bailey Street Furniture Group is ideally positioned to help bring new purpose to outdoor spaces. Sheltered from the elements with fixed or movable seating and tables, a courtyard, for example, can become a functional learning or work space. Bailey Street Furniture Group will help you get the local wind and snow loadings correct, of course, and with a wide variety of design options available including bespoke solutions, an additional outdoor resource is easily within reach.
Accessibility and inclusivity
Urban design and streetscapes are being transformed in terms of their accessibility for all, driven by the more stringent requirements of the bolstered Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). This is something every urban designer or client will have at the top of their agenda, ensuring there is no risk of excluding anyone from enjoying a public space regardless of their disability or impairment.
This is an area where Bailey Street Furniture Group can help. Its street furniture design support and wide range of products helps designers maintain their design intent and vision whilst optimising accessibility. Take the Plateau I bench, for example, which offers a clean design with open ended spaces to accommodate wheelchairs at either end for a DDA-compliant, long term outdoor seating solution.
Sports and play equipment
Where space allows, why not consider developing an outdoor space with equipment for sporting activity or play? Solutions available from Bailey’s AMV Playgrounds division provides expertise in all aspects of design for play in the public realm, including trim trails and table tennis, plus more comprehensive facilities including multi-use games areas (MUGAs). This approach is all about making fitness fun and making sure these activities can be provided outdoors as much as possible.
For more information on BSFG please contact their team on 01625 322 888 or email www.bsfg.co.uk