Urban development is going through a period of change—especially in regions like the Southwest. As the dynamics of urbanization, environmental concerns, and societal values evolve, so must the priorities in land development. Let’s delve deep into the top trends making waves in this dynamic sector: concepts on the rise in 2024 (and beyond).
1. Mixed-use development
The desire for convenience and community cohesion has amplified the trend of mixed-use development. These projects combine residential, commercial, and recreational spaces in one integrated setting. This reduces transportation needs while fostering vibrant community spaces that cater to varied needs, from shopping and dining to entertainment and living.
Example: The Hudson Yards, New York City
Hudson Yards seamlessly blends residential, commercial, and recreational spaces. As the largest private real estate development in the U.S., it epitomizes urban rejuvenation and community-centric development.
2. Regenerative development
While sustainability focuses on meeting today’s needs without compromising the future, regenerative development goes a step further. It aims to rejuvenate the environment and communities, restoring them to their natural, balanced state. This involves not just environmentally friendly practices, but also community involvement, restoring local ecosystems, and boosting local economies.
Example: The Omega Center for Sustainable Living, USA
An environmental education center and wastewater treatment plant, the Omega Center uses a holistic approach to treat water, educate the public, and rejuvenate the local ecosystem. It’s a model for closed-loop, regenerative design.
3. Net-zero communities
The urgency to combat climate change has led to the rise of net-zero communities. These are communities designed to produce as much energy as they consume, primarily through renewable sources. More than just energy-efficient homes, these communities encompass sustainable transportation, waste management, and community-scale renewable energy infrastructure. They represent a comprehensive approach to sustainable urban living.
Example: BedZED, UK
The Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED) in London is a large-scale, mixed-use sustainable community. With energy-efficient buildings, on-site renewable energy generation, and integrated waste management, it epitomizes a holistic approach to sustainable urban living.
4. Biophilic design
Drawing inspiration from nature, biophilic design integrates natural elements into urban constructions. This could range from plants and water features to natural lighting and materials. Beyond aesthetic appeal, these designs enhance citizens’ well-being, reduce stress, and improve air quality. As urban dwellers yearn for a closer connection to nature, biophilic design bridges this gap.
Example: Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore
This unique hotel incorporates extensive greenery, from terraced gardens to water features. Its design promotes well-being, reduces the urban heat island effect, and offers guests a unique nature-infused experience in the heart of the city.
5. Vertical farming
In the wake of ever-shrinking urban spaces and the need for sustainable agriculture, vertical farming is steadily gaining momentum. This method entails growing crops in vertically stacked layers or vertically inclined surfaces. Not only does it maximize the use of limited space, it also significantly reduces the need for transportation, given that these farms can be located in urban centers. With the twin benefits of reducing carbon footprints and ensuring fresh produce availability, vertical farming is set to redefine urban agriculture.
Example: Sky Greens, Singapore
Sky Greens is Singapore’s first low carbon hydraulic-driven vertical farm, producing high-quality vegetables. Using minimal land, water, and energy resources, the farm efficiently rotates troughs of vegetables to ensure even sunlight distribution.
Integrating solar power generation with agriculture, agrivoltaics is an innovative approach to land use. It involves the co-location of solar panels with crops, allowing for simultaneous electricity production and agriculture. This not only optimizes land usage, it also creates a microclimate for the crops beneath, which can lead to increased yields and reduced water usage. As concerns about sustainable energy and food security grow, agrivoltaics offer a holistic solution.
Example: Fraunhofer Institute’s Project, Germany
The Fraunhofer Institute launched an agrivoltaics project where solar panels were installed over crops. Early results showed that the crops under the panels had lower water requirements and, in some cases, even higher yields.
Innovation across urban development
Aside from these overarching trends, niche trends are emerging in specific sectors. In the industrial sector, the e-commerce boom demands more warehouses and distribution centers. Meanwhile, the retail sector is witnessing a surge in mixed-use projects that offer a blend of retail space, dining, entertainment, and other amenities.
The land development sector is in constant flux. The developers poised for success in 2024 and beyond will be those agile enough to harness new technologies, align with contemporary trends, and resonate with modern values.Sandbox Development is at the forefront of trends in commercial development, and we’re committed to sustainable initiatives. Our dedication to pioneering trends — including net-zero and mixed-use development — showcases a vision for the future where urban landscapes aren’t just built, but thoughtfully crafted for generations to come.