How colour is reinventing public spaces

How colour is reinventing public spaces

Our head of client services, Peter Hordley, recently penned an article for Local Authority Building and Maintenance about how adopting a creative approach to the interior fit out of a public sector building can have a huge impact on its success. Read the full article below. 
Innovation in paint manufacturing is enabling architects and building managers to create remarkable public facilities that utilise colour, light, and space in ways that would not have been possible in years gone by. These new spaces are altering perceptions of public buildings, and encouraging new behaviours amongst people of all ages in a variety of settings.
In turn, local authorities and building managers are pushing the boundaries of what is considered the norm when it comes to designing buildings for public use, and some inspiring projects, including Staffordshire County Council’s new Library in Stafford, have emerged as a result.
Going green

When Staffordshire County Council approached Novus to fit out Stafford Library, the council was particularly keen to ensure the interior of the building was redesigned to suit the needs of modern service users. The library, like the vast majority of public libraries around the UK, used to be a series of rooms containing bookshelves and little else so Novus were called in to address the problem and overhaul the design of the library.

The approach to the design was inspired by research into the psychology of colour, which states that green can bring about a sense of calm and positivity amongst people using a space. Lighting conditions were a primary concern for Staffordshire Council, so smart lights were installed that automatically adjust the level of light in the library. These lights dim or switch off when there is enough natural light present, helping to reduce energy consumption.

The varied design and layout of the library helped to create a number of reading environments to stimulate readers in different ways. The designs included a seating area for children that looks like a pond full of lilypads, and the whole area is broken up with curved shelves that demarcate the various reading zones and an innovation suite, which houses computers and 3D printers.

The final result is an immersive, imaginative, energising library that caters for a broad range of users and maximises the building’s potential giving the people of Stafford a truly modern, user-friendly library to enjoy.
Colour and identity

As well as being used to engender certain moods and behaviours, colour can also act as an important signifier of local identity and community. In recent years, housing authorities have successfully taken the principles that guide the use of colour in student accommodation and applied them to public housing projects.
When managing a large stock of housing, it can be tempting to standardize by painting doors and windows in the same colour. However, this can lead to a homogenising effect that leaves residents barely able to distinguish one area from another in terms of the general appearance of the houses.
This is something which Novus has taken on board when working with social housing providers and has received positive feedback from communities where colours have been used to create a neighbourhood style for the houses in a particular area. Residents reported an increased sense of identification with their locality, and a stronger sense of belonging as a result. This principle is also being used to great effect in care homes and sheltered accommodation for the elderly, where it is particularly beneficial for those with early symptoms of dementia.
In Leicester, the City Council used colour to reflect the cultural heritage of the area known as The Golden Mile, which has been the subject of a series of refurbishments in 2013. The area is home to a large number of Asian shops and eateries and the council wanted to reflect this heritage in the area. They asked local shopkeepers to contribute 10 percent towards the cost of improving the appearance of their shops if the council funded the remainder.
The uptake was high, and the council enlisted the help of Novus to mock up a variety of colour schemes for the exteriors of the buildings in the area using digital representations of how the shops would look so that council representatives could make informed decisions before the paint was applied, giving the area a dramatic lift.
Colour and shape in learning environments

The local authority buildings which are most receptive to innovative design, unusual room layouts and creative colour schemes are schools, nurseries and other educational settings. Learning environment designs, particularly those intended for younger children, are being purposefully pushed in directions that avoid conformity to expected norms.
There has been a realisation in the last decade that by incorporating irregular features and creating school rooms with a variety of shapes and lines, the building itself can be an inspiring teaching tool that fires the imagination.
Novus has worked on a range of refurbishment projects across different schools and has seen an increase in demand for creating learning areas using colour and texture of wall and floor finishes with curved interfaces. Drawing on its understanding of how colour can influence mood and behaviour, the Novus team utilises colour intelligently to create environments that inspire young people and assist teachers.
The value of innovation

The need for public buildings to compete with those in the private sector is helping to drive innovation in design. Schools, colleges and even fire stations are being created and adapted for use by whole communities, and the design of these buildings is being adjusted accordingly.
By allowing designers to innovate with the use of colour, shape, and layout, public authorities are fuelling the rise of buildings that meet the needs of a broader range of people, fulfill business demands more effectively, and strengthen communities.

Fire Sprinkler Systems, Misting Systems and Retrofitting into Residential Properties


Fire safety is a topic which all businesses should be considering and always needs to be revisited to ensure that the latest fire safety practices are being taken into account. Within the following article, we discuss the different types of Automatic Water Suppression System (AWSS) that can be implemented and whether retrofitting should be considered for residential properties, including residential care and social housing. The Benefits of AWSS In the 2017/18 financial year, the Fire and Rescue Service attended 167,150 fires in the UK, which accounts to about 3214 fires attended a week*. When looking at the statistics of AWSS one key point stands out. In fires where sprinkler systems have been implemented no-one has ever died*. Sprinkler systems will also help in protecting a building’s assets as they will only activate in the vicinity of the fire, ensuring that the spread of fire is limited, which will limit the damage caused to the property. Water damage from a fire is also reduced when using a sprinkler system, as manned fire services often use 15 times more water from hoses, to do the same job as a sprinkler. According to data from the Home Office, the difference in time taken to extinguish a fire with an AWSS is around 60 seconds, in comparison to the 7 minutes and 41 seconds average response  time of the fire service in England for dwellings*. The video below shows the dramatic difference this time can make: Different Types of Fire Sprinkler System Installation While having a sprinkler system has proven to save lives and reduce water and smoke damage to properties, there are differing options when it comes to fire sprinkler system installations. There are three main installations which all have their individual benefits and drawbacks: Mains Pressure Systems A mains pressure system works using the water provided by the mains supply. This system benefits from having lower capital installation costs and no need to store water;, as water is taken from the utility supplied mains. The drawback to a mains pressure system is that there will never be a guarantee of water pressure, or flows supplied by the mains. Equally pipework size may require noticeable profile of ‘boxing in’ (the process of adding larger plastic cover, that to some would look unsightly within a room). Boosted Mains Systems Similar to the mains pressure system but boosted, via a pump, these systems use an overhead piping array inside the building, avoiding issues around pressures and flow compared to mains pressure supplied systems. Again, these systems don’t require a storage tank and less investment is also needed. While these systems don’t overcome all of the issues of the mains pressure system, it is more expensive and also intrudes into internal spaces, which can be unsightly and require extensive decorative work to hide unsightly pipework.  Storage Tank Systems The main benefit of the storage tank system is that the water must be held on site. Storage tank systems have a number of benefits such as knowing that there will be a guaranteed pressure and flow of water at all times. The system’s pumps also perform automatic weekly tests, giving further reassurance of the system. This is also the most comprehensive sprinkler system for a similar cost to the boosted mains system. The main drawback of this system is that the tank would have to be stored somewhere so would require either loft, or basement space.   Fire Sprinkler Systems vs Misting Systems The three options above all operate the tried and tested sprinkler system, which has been a proven technology for over 100 years. One criticism of the traditional sprinkler system is that they use too much water, leading to unnecessary water damage. One option that has solved this problem is the high-pressure misting systems, which can target fires much more specifically and use much less water. Using only one tenth of the water of a sprinkler system, misting systems are proving that water damage can be avoided while still providing effective fire protection.   Though fire misting systems offer some real positives, they are currently an un-adopted standard. They also haven’t had the same 100 years rigorous testing that sprinkler systems have endured. Cost is another factor, with misting systems being a new technology and at the cutting edge of fire safety, they are currently more expensive to install, than retrofitting sprinklers. Retrofitting AWSS Whilst the regulations on fire safety in the UK differ between England, Scotland and Wales. Within Wales all domestic new builds require sprinklers in: new houses and flats, care homes, rooms for residential purposes and sheltered housing. Scotland requires sprinklers in new build care homes and high-rise buildings, whereas England only require new build high rise buildings over 30m to have sprinklers. However, while regulations are focussed on new builds, retrofitting sprinkler or misting systems is something every property owner should be considering. The safety benefits that the system presents and the peace of mind for occupiers is something that people are beginning to believe outweighs the initial financial cost. Since many people are now considering it, retrofitting AWSS presents its own challenges when comparing to fitting systems in new buildings, this is where a company like Novus Property Solutions can really help. Retrofitting means working in occupied homes and ensuring as little disruption as possible. Therefore, having a proven track record of being able to work with residents in an efficient and trustworthy manner is essential.