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3 architectural trends to watch out for in 2023

Architectural trends influence and shape the way we design and build our buildings. Informed by several factors including the environment, societal, economic and geopolitical changes, technological advancements, material innovations, and even life-altering events such as the recent pandemic, architectural trends guide the design thinking process to create built spaces that will serve the needs of the occupants well into the future.

While the pandemic years have been tough on the world, it’s also been a period of learning and adapting, and being more mindful about the way we live our lives. Minimalism, flexible and adaptable spaces, sustainable construction, energy-efficiency and materiality, along with sensitivity towards the environment will continue to be addressed in building design; however, new technologies, innovative materials and pioneering architecture will lead the way in 2023 as architects proactively go beyond their comfort zones to design the built environment with a futuristic perspective.

Here are 3 architectural trends that will shape the built environment in 2023:

3D Printed Houses

A technology that has been evolving at a rapid pace, 3D printing has truly come of age with increasing application in residential building construction. Time is the biggest advantage of 3D printing a house – the house can be ready in a matter of hours depending on the size, design and scale. Even factoring in electrical, plumbing, joinery and finishing works, 3D printed houses can be made ready for occupancy in less than 3 months!


Bouygues Entreprises produced this 95m² 3D printed house in partnership with the University of Nantes, France. The house was built at a cost of €176000 (AUD 270,000) in 2018. (Image: Bouygues)

Compared to traditional construction, 3D printed houses cost at least 20% less to create thanks to savings in labour, materials and time, and the cost is expected to reduce further as the technology improves. One of the major benefits of 3D printed houses is environmental. Construction waste is one of the biggest polluters in the world today, with most of the waste ending in landfill. Being an additive manufacturing technology, 3D printing minimises waste and consequently, reduces cost too.

Design flexibility and accuracy are significant advantages with 3D printed houses, allowing architects to create complex designs, and customise them to meet energy-efficiency and sustainability goals. While concrete is the most common material used in 3D printed construction, researchers are experimenting with other materials that are sourced locally such as clay or peat, and even stone composites to bring the cost further down.

As the technology gets more democratised and economical, one can envisage its application in creating housing for the poor, or building emergency shelters during natural disasters.

Timber Construction

The use of timber in construction goes back several millennia and the material continues to be popular even today, and not just for its aesthetic considerations. Timber is an infinitely renewable resource, locks in carbon, and has very low embodied carbon, making it a highly sustainable building material. With the traditional steel-and-concrete construction sector identified as one of the biggest contributors to global carbon emissions, there has been a conscious shift to low embodied carbon materials such as timber.

Seafood Research Centre

Seafood Research Centre, Port Nelson Limited (Credit XLAM)

The demand for sustainable timber – timber sourced from sustainably managed and certified forests – has grown exponentially, especially in the commercial building sector. Innovations in engineered wood products have created new opportunities for mass timber construction, with leading developers using cross laminated timber (CLT) and glue laminated timber (GLT) to build medium- and high-rise timber buildings.

By providing a greener alternative to conventional construction materials, mass timber delivers immediate and long-term environmental benefits. Made using wood harvested from plantation timber forests, mass timber is engineered for strength and has significant load-bearing properties, comparable to steel and concrete. It is also lightweight and fire-resistant, making it an ideal material for tall timber buildings.

Mass timber allows prefabrication, reducing construction timelines and labour costs onsite. With these advantages, mass timber is indeed the ‘green future of building’, and is expected to take off at scale within this decade.

Floating Architecture

An important development in climate-resilient construction, floating architecture is not exactly new: Ranging from self-contained boathouses to full-fledged permanent homes, floating or buoyant buildings housing families and entire communities can commonly be found in the waterways and along the shores of Denmark, Netherlands, South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand among others.


Waterstudio designed nine luxurious floating houses in the town of Zeewolde, The Netherlands

Dwindling land availability, rising sea levels and urban flooding threats are now challenging architects to explore the concepts of floating architecture, and create buoyant buildings that can adapt to unpredictable weather and severe climate events. While some houses are built on land with amphibious foundations, others are built on the water, resting on raft or pontoon foundations, connected to each other via pontoon bridges, and occasionally tethered to the sea-floor.

Architects are also continuously innovating by integrating sustainable elements such as solar panels for energy self-sufficiency, or using locally available biodegradable materials to build these floating structures.

Beyond flood mitigation, floating buildings offer a solution to cities facing overpopulation issues, while some projects also make a lifestyle statement. Netherland’s Waterstudio designed nine luxurious floating houses offering generous views, with each house featuring spacious living areas and kitchens, three bedrooms, a sunny roof terrace, garden and onsite parking space. Another project that the studio is collaborating on is the ambitious Maldives Floating City featuring homes, hotels, restaurants and boutiques.

New innovations also include Danish maritime architecture studio MAST’s floating architecture system that offers a sustainable and flexible solution for building ‘almost anything on water’. Land on Water is a modular floating island system that uses simple, flat-packed modules made from recycled reinforced plastic, which can be easily transported anywhere and assembled into unlimited configurations to provide a secure floating foundation for houses, campsites, public spaces and even infrastructure. From houses and neighbourhoods to entire cities, floating architecture will be making waves well into the future.

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