Millennial Building Design:
How millennials are changing the shape of buildings and architecture.
Millennials have been the most studied generation to date, and for a good reason, they will shape our future in a way that no other generation has in the past. Millennials are defined as people born between 1982 and 1997, and they are the largest and most influential age group of U.S. Consumers. The uniqueness of Millennials comes from the fact that they were born and raised in an era of time when information technology (IT) had already been created. Meaning, they have never known life without the internet.
Millennials don’t use cell phones to be cool; they carry them because cell phones are their go-to interface for acquiring information. A millennial doesn’t turn on the TV to find out the weather and traffic, and they certainly don’t fire up the laptop to order a pair of concert tickets or their Friday night pizza. I should know, I’ve raised a couple of Millennials. I’ve witnessed firsthand how they act and react to the environment around them.
To date, the millennial age range is 21-36. These are the young adults who are new college graduates with their first career-related jobs. They are first time homeowners and parents of young children.
Every business owner in the world should take note of Millennials and learn to recognize the preferences of this generation and determine how you can increase your bottom line by catering to their specific likes and needs.
Millennials are highly educated, tech-savvy, and civic-oriented. They are entrepreneurial global citizens who like to take the road less traveled and carve their own version of a perfect life.
So how do we, building designers, take all of the research and what we know about millennials and interpret it into our buildings? How can the built environment better cater to them, and offer your business an edge up on the success ladder?
Millennials are highly educated.
Don’t try to fake it with a millennial. They are educated enough to know the difference between real materials and fake ones. And trust me, they do not appreciate elements that are fake. When they touch a guardrail that has a shiny metal looking surface, it should feel cold to the touch, not warm and flimsy like plastic. When they sit down at a wood table they will appreciate the wood’s unique grain pattern; it should not be a glued-on laminate surface.
Don’t spend your building design budget trying to be something you are not. Out are Trompe-l’œil paintings with fake windows showing a view of an Italian coastline and black acoustic ceiling tiles with twinkle lights inserted into them.
Millennials appreciate the beauty of real materials and real environments. If you want your business to have a scenic view, you’ll need to build on a property with a beautiful view. If you want a dining room with a starry night sky, plan for an outdoor patio in a neighborhood with strict night lighting policies that won’t drown out the view of the stars.
Millennials recognize fakeness and are offended when someone doesn’t expect them to know and appreciate the difference.
Millennials are tech-savvy.
Having technology at their fingertips 24 hours a day, Millennials expect immediate gratification and feedback.
Design a Reception area with both personal and electronic check-in systems in place. Although electronic check-in systems are a regular part of our day and are expected to be easy to set up and use, they are no replacement for a human greeting and smile.
Using custom Apps to communicate to Millennials will keep them feeling connected well after they have left. Whether you are a gym with a fitness tracking app letting them see their progress, a childcare center communicating how their child’s day is going, or a church scheduling an activity, keep in mind that your facility reaches well beyond its walls.
Millennials are civic oriented.
The “Cone Millennial Cause” study found that just over 80 percent of survey respondents volunteer either weekly, monthly or once or twice a year. They want to affect change and have taken on the weight of the world.
A millennial extends their version of community to be any group of “like-minded” people.
It’s easy during the holidays to set up an area in your Reception area to invite others to add to your donation towards a cause of choice. Take it a step further and plan for a permanent installation. Keep something set up year-round that offers your patrons a seasonal cause activity that they can join in by volunteering, donating, or boycotting with you and your brand.
Recycling is a part of their everyday lives, so make sure to install recycling bins in your facility. Every building has all types of recycle trash coming through it on a daily basis and having recycle bins communicates that you care about the same things that your millennial consumers care about. It’s a subtle statement that isn’t costly but will make a big difference in how your business is perceived.
Millennials are entrepreneurial.
Naturally having an entrepreneurial spirit is great news for the small business owner and the “mom and pop” businesses. Millennials appreciate uniqueness for the sake of originality and don’t buy into the mass consumerism of big box stores. They want to surround themselves with things that reflect their personalities.
Not every millennial wants to open their own business, but every millennial does support the idea and the dream that drives entrepreneurial business ownership. They relate to independent business owners and consciously help them with their patronage.
Whether they love yoga and pilates or kickboxing and cycling, Millennials are more likely to select a small gym down the street that suits their style over a large gym that has the same classes but has no unique regional or neighborhood characteristics.
National brands should seriously consider re-styling their locations to be more homogenous with the neighborhoods in which they’re located.
This is true for all big box and prototype-based businesses. In an age where a person can live and work anywhere in the world, Millennials are identifying and moving to regions and communities that appeal to them. Generic businesses that put their own brand above the ability to “fit in” with their surroundings are unappealing to Millennials.
Companies need to be flexible enough to address both their brand identity and neighborhood characteristics simultaneously.
Millennials are global citizens.
According to the Cone Study, “An overwhelming 89% are likely to switch from one brand to another (if price and quality are equal) if the second supports a cause.” Not only do Millennials support global initiatives, but they are also expecting businesses to do their part as well.
Saving energy and building an environmentally friendly building will put you ahead of the curve against your competitors. Walk the walk on energy efficiency and educate your patrons about it as well.
Following an extensive energy rating system like Energy Star, LEED or Well Building gives you the name recognition and ability to install their logo plaques on your building front. But it isn’t necessary. If you don’t want to follow an entire rating system, you can itemize the efficiency priorities yourself. Above all, make sure that the energy efficient items are communicated to your patrons, so they get the same feel-good experience about being there.
Having an energy efficient building makes financial sense for all businesses, but it’s not enough to just switch out a few light fixtures. Designing visible attributes into your building sends a message to your Millennial patrons that your business is prepared to do as much as possible to contribute to a better world. Don’t shy away from solar panels, celebrate them!
Keep in mind that highly educated Millennials know what they want and are not afraid to stand up for what they think is right. Cater to that mindset, and they will consistency support your business for years to come.
At Calbert Design Group, we believe that designing your facility with Millennials in mind makes for a smart business decision. We have design solutions that can both celebrate your brand and adequately recognize the community you are building in. We are experienced in designing energy efficient buildings and know ways to communicate these smart attributes to your patrons in an elegant way. Contact us at 678-398-7744 or email Info@CalbertDesign.com