Architecture and design are always informed by science – and a new trend in building is no exception.

In recent years, brain tomography (fMRIs etc) has been refined, mapping changes in brain activity in response to stimulus, and the interaction between stress hormones like cortisol and health-supporting hormones like oxytocin has been better defined.

The science has confirmed something that we already “felt:” that nature, and being outdoors, has enormous benefits for our health and well-being. Simply hearing birdsong reduces our blood pressure; the smell of lavender or grass can improve cognitive function.

Commercial designers have responded by focussing more closely than ever on the outdoor spaces in their projects. Integrating nature into commercial design delivers high satisfaction to patrons, and is a cost-effective way to add useable space to buildings.

Year-round outdoor spaces like restaurant patios are more sought-after than ever; hotels build or retrofit their lobbies and lounges to maximize outdoor usage; the Whitney Museum recently designed its new home in lower Manhattan with sculpture displayed on many outdoor terraces – some of them looking out on the High Line, an enormously popular new park built to showcase the calming power of nature within the city.

Brain researchers have also confirmed that what we look at directly influences how we feel. The “duality of prospect and refuge” is a term used by neuroscientists to describe the visual environment that most soothes our nervous system: contained in a safe space (refuge) with a clear open view (prospect). Landscape architects craft just these sort of vistas when they surround an outdoor lounge, for instance, with dense bushes and solid walls, but also frame the open sky and a receding path or walkway to psychologically assure the viewer that coming and going will be safe and easy.

In sum: the patrons and employees of a commercial space are affected – physically –  by the space around them. More than ever, the designers and builders of that space have the opportunity to make people happy and healthy with a wide range of influences.

To embrace these important outdoor building trends, builders choose their materials carefully to ensure that they will withstand weather and sunlight exposure, while still matching the aesthetic expectations of designers. And in highly trafficked commercial spaces, those materials must be easy to maintain and to clean.

Many designers and builders have turned to HDPE products like those made by Vycom®, a manufacturer and distributor with diverse product lines to fulfill the varied demands of outdoor design.

Vycom lines can be fitted to many commercial designs, for a wide variety of products ranging from custom cabinetry and furniture, to materials for decorative elements like railing or trim, to aesthetic and weatherproof art and signage. Vycom’s parent company Azek can provide composite materials used for large scale decking and boardwalks.

Vycom meets a critical need in state-of-the-art outdoor projects, supplying designers with material to bring their visions to reality. HDPE plastics are highly adaptable for design, look beautiful, feel comfortable, and are easily maintained to outlast their wood or metal counterparts by many years.

Outdoor spaces at home are following the trend as well! Homeowners request outdoor spaces that combine the high standards of indoor design with the access to outdoor air and light that makes them feel healthy and happy. Whether homeowners seek to bring home the sophisticated touches they’ve seen at hotels and restaurants, or to extend their own traditional style to an upgraded patio, Vycom products again allow them the adaptability and functionality to respond to recent trends in happy, healthy outdoor building.

We have a feeling that these scientifically inspired design trends are here to stay – like the beautiful outdoor spaces that they are helping to build!