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.

How Eagle-eyed Contractors Can Help Landlords


Kevin Rhone, head of social value at Novus, explains why housing associations can glean new insights from contractors working in their communities and use them for more than completing building works. The social housing sector faces unending challenges. Not only are they tasked with regenerating communities, pressured to provide high quality homes and services, and challenged to increase their build rates, they’re also looked to as a key stakeholder in ensuring the safety and security of people in their communities. Having eyes and ears on the ground in these communities to make sure customers are safe and well is a bank-breaking investment, however. This is particularly true of national organisations borne of the spate of M&A activity in recent years. Monitoring communities more deeply than they’re obligated to do is almost impossible over their geographic footprints. Particularly since, for these organisations, huge amounts of capital have to be spent solely on maintaining stock. However, many RPs are missing an opportunity. They’re not using contractors’ insights, yet these businesses can offer a wealth of understanding about local communities. Construction and Maintenance Teams’ Positive Impact Of course, customer care officers can’t be everywhere at once. Construction and maintenance teams interact with housing associations’ customers every day. They see it all first hand and can be friendly faces on estates while also helping associations to identify solutions to regular issues. Many on-site professionals are keen to engage. They aren’t simply there to fix and repair homes, they build relationships with communities and in some cases, can be vulnerable people’s most frequent visitor while they’re around. They will regularly help elderly residents with their shopping and can be the first to discover if they’ve had an injury. Housing associations can also ask these teams to be vigilant for signs of violence and abuse and can ask them to keep their eyes open in areas where there are suspicions of drug use. While, yes, any responsible person would report illegal activity, contractors can help further by identifying trends too – how or why certain issues may be cropping up frequently. Using them in this way can help housing associations think up new ideas of how they might be better addressed. CSR Programmes It’s not just about pointing out the problems too. Many contractors have CSR programmes and housing associations could also use these to proactively address challenges in their communities. We run a national CSR programme called Changing Lives. So far, we’ve changed over 33,000 lives since 2015 through community projects that provide work opportunities or skills development or regenerate certain areas to help improve aspirations. One of our projects in the last year saw us work with a national housing association to provide temporary accommodation for homeless young families in Sheffield, for example. Advice for Landlords Landlords can do this by opening the channels of communication. Contractors and their on-site teams can provide regular updates or join team meetings to discuss issues on estates. They can also work in conjunction with customer care teams during their day-to-day work too, offering opinions, advice and useful context before officers contact residents. Contractors are a resource often under-used in this respect. However, landlords could not only get a better understanding of the real issues in their estates, but get the insight needed to help them solve them, by involving the people who are in their communities every day.