Top 5 Takeouts: Create unbeatable outdoor spaces for ‘unprecedented times’

Over the past two years, the ‘great outdoors’ have taken on a whole new meaning – and a starring role in personal and collective resilience. Discover the top takeouts for our clients when it comes to planning (and future-proofing) outdoor spaces for schools and communities.

First, the research

A recent report from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has shown that while COVID-19 significantly disrupted people’s personal and work lives, it also led to New Zealanders connecting with people and the environment in new ways. The research showed that people who embraced or juggled the disruption tended to increase their outdoor activities, expand social connections, and appreciate nature.

Other studies cited in the report showed that during the pandemic:

  • for children and youth, access to places for socialising and physical activity led to improved physical and mental health, and correlated with improved subjective wellbeing
  • greenspace improved health and wellbeing – and the natural environment can be as important as the social environment in building resilience
  • 82% of participants in one study perceived parks as contributing to health and happiness.

#1: Hug-like hubs

When it comes to connecting to people and nature, our clients are striving to create genuine outdoor ‘hubs’ more than ever. Modular, multi-purpose and customisable bench seats can be adapted and thoughtfully arranged for people to chat or chill out in any-sized area. In larger parks and school grounds, modern table settings, shelters and community BBQs come together to encourage outdoor social gatherings. For schools, simple and durable table settings for sharing lunch transform into popular outdoor learning tables to create healthier, inspiring open-air classrooms. And quirky touches to ignite interaction and activity are proving effective – with outdoor table tennis or giant chess boards adding spark to more parks and school grounds.

#2 Naturally

Think recyclable and responsible materials, plus smart and sustainable designs and products. But also consider the increasingly popular features demanded by environmentally-conscious people of all ages – like water fountains with bottle fillers, bins with recycling facilities, and even bins with solar-powered rubbish sensors and compacting capabilities. Also, more clients are using stunning planters to ‘build in’ beautiful, natural touches to outdoor settings and facilities. An American university study showed that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis underscores the psychological benefits of nature—as well as the need for urban infrastructure and policies that maximise those benefits. Cities need to be creative about their use of green space. Simple measures like green walls and adding more trees are playing a role in preserving the social connectivity of cities and supporting population health.

#3 Complete ease

A truly inviting space – where people want to linger longer – has convenience nailed. Clients are adding bike racks for the growing army of cyclists (plus scooter enthusiasts) and the popularity of ‘park and ride’ facilities. Charging stations for mobile phones (like those incorporated into our Neo Shelter) are a smart touch. And accessibility is becoming the norm rather the exception, with table settings, water fountains and BBQs specifically designed for wheelchair and elderly access and easy entry.

#4 Local smarts

With supply chains still under pressure, more organisations are realising the benefits of working with local suppliers with in-house manufacturing facilities and reduced lead times. ‘Buy local’ has seen a resurgence for good reason – with budgets and schedules feeling the squeeze. Our clients enjoy local experience and know-how having teams and manufacturing facilities located in both the North and South Islands.

#5 Flexible feels

An increased sense of (and yearning for) community has made customisation more popular. Working with councils, schools and architects, it has become clear that individual touches – and nods to local history and environment – are on the rise. A proud New Zealand-based company with a North and South Island presence, we have the flexibility to tailor solutions for different spaces, places and regions – from seat and bench sizes to colours and personalisation (signage and engraving).

Want to know more – or have your own specific needs? We’d love to help – contact us today to create an unbeatable outdoor space.

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