It would be fair to say that commercial practice is one of the most exciting spaces in architecture (with all due respect to all other practices, of course!). Particularly in larger commercial projects, there is a unique combination of size, purpose, location, and budget, that inspires some really visionary designs. Particularly now, at a time where the world is re-imagining what work looks like, architects are helping shape the future with innovative, flexible, and multifunctional spaces.

Of course, the flip side of the future-of-work debate has resulted in a tempering of appetite for large commercial work, as people await clarity on whether distributed working will become the new norm. However, with physical restrictions from the pandemic now firmly in the rearview mirror, many people and businesses are remembering the positives of working from the same space.

Sustainability is undoubtedly a key focus in the design of large commercial projects, and one that is being incorporated in increasingly innovative ways. With that in mind, there are a few trends we’ve been observing that we can expect to see more of in the coming years.

Smart Systems

Technology drives almost every aspect of modern life, and commercial architecture is no different. Smart systems are now being integrated throughout large buildings to gather data on people’s behaviours, facility usage, and energy requirements. Far from Orwellian, this monitoring allows building managers to make a huge range of informed decisions to optimise building performance. Things like predictive maintenance, optimisation of water flow, and large-scale reporting are now possible, making large commercial buildings more sustainable than ever - all while providing a better occupant experience.

Next-gen HVAC

HVAC is one of the biggest energy requirements for any large scale construction. Ventilation for hundreds, and possibly thousands of people at any one time is no small feat, but these mammoth systems are becoming more sustainable as the years go on. Newer systems are able to utilise heat from building hot water systems, or natural sources of cooling like groundwater or nearby lakes in some cases. On top of this, technology enables closer regulation of HVAC usage, allowing for options like flushing the building with cool air at night to reduce the cooling requirements arising from radiant body heat when the buildings are full of people during the day.

Passive Design

Passive design is one of the biggest sustainable architecture movements globally, and its presence is being ever-more greatly felt in the large commercial sector, too. At its core, passive design is about using radiant heat or cooling to reduce the need for artificial systems. This is achieved through numerous factors including air-tight building envelopes, designing facades specific to their orientation, and avoiding (or embracing) over-exposure to the sun, depending on the prevailing climate in the building’s location.

While the above list is far from exhaustive, these are a few of the more innovative and novel ways we’re seeing sustainability being integrated into large-scale commercial projects. We’re looking forward to seeing buildings that deliver next-level experiences for occupants, while delivering even greater efficiency at every turn.

The 2023 Sustainability Awards will see a range of projects celebrated for their contemporary flair and innovative brilliance. For more information, visit