Looking back at the biggest building trends of the 2010s

Uncertainty reigned as we entered the 2010s. The decade began in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the American housing crash. No one was sure what a recovery meant for the country, let alone if one would materialize. Yet these last ten years would go on to become defined by economic growth, smart technology, social progress and industrial innovation.

All of those trends had a part in driving construction forward and reshaping how our city is built, from housing to office space, public places and commercial storefronts. As the next decade opens, New York City continues to ride a building boom: The New York Building Congress projects construction spending to reach $177 billion in the three-year span of 2018 to 2020. This is after annual spending nearly doubled from roughly $30 billion in 2010 to $56 billion in 2018, according to NYBC President Carlo Scissura.

Being at the center of New York City's municipal building code consulting and permit and approval procurement, Milrose has had a front-row seat to the tremendous growth over the last decade. Now that the 2010s have ended, let's reflect on the 10 years that were and get ready for the 10 years ahead.

Here are our top five building trends of the 2010s:

1. Supertalls

New York City is defined by its ever-changing skyline. The city's identity as a concrete jungle with skyscrapers soaring high up into the sky was further burnished in the 2010s when supertall buildings became the biggest trend in building — figuratively and literally.

Supertalls, which measure 984 feet (300 meters) or taller, sprung up all over the world in the 2010s. That was especially the case in NYC. Only four such buildings existed in NYC to begin the decade, but now the city is home to 27 supertalls that are either built, under construction or in planning.

While the Empire State Building started off the decade as NYC's tallest tower, six towers have since risen above its 1,250 feet. Among these new supertall skyscrapers is SL Green's One Vanderbilt, set to become the tallest office tower in Midtown East. The project came under the Midtown East Rezoning proposal that allowed for taller buildings in exchange for improvements to transit and public spaces. SL Green invested $220 million to revitalize 78 blocks around Grand Central Terminal and build an underground connection from the building to the train station.

Supertalls have become more common, but public and regulatory criticisms have also increased. For example, the City Council recently approved an NYC zoning amendment to restrict mechanical voids, which are commonly used by developers as a "loophole" to add onto a building's height. But as development of supertalls continues to roll on, the question emerges, "Will they become sustainable?"

2. Sustainability

Sustainability and environmental considerations have risen to the forefront of many industries, construction included. Now, developers, designers and owners are all turning their attention toward how they can make buildings green and environmentally friendly.OneNYC benchmarks

A number of trends and events have put the focus on sustainability. NYC and the surrounding area had to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. As a result, the City has led the nation in fighting climate change by mandating sustainable construction practices and adopting many other materials, waste and labor measures. The recent Climate Mobilization Act is a package of laws that aim to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Included in this legislation is Local Law 84, which requires green or solar roofs to be built on new buildings or major renovations.

Adaptive reuse emerged as another key sustainability trend in the 2010s. Rehabilitating and renovating old, often urban and industrial spaces can have green benefits, such as when the building is retrofitted with LED lightning. Adaptive reuse not only aligns with sustainability goals, it also fits many consumer and commercial trends.

3. Transit

After nearly a century, the much-awaited Second Avenue Subway finally opened to riders in 2017. A project that was originally proposed in 1919, it was designed to handle a growing transit ridership after World War I. But delays due to financing, the Great Depression, World War II and countless other factors saw it shelved for years. Planning, engineering and funding progress was eventually made, and by 2017 the first phase of the Second Avenue line was operational.

While the Second Avenue Subway was a major triumph, the NYC subway system suffered several setbacks during the 2010s that have left it in dire need of upgrades and repairs. The City Council is attempting to spur the needed infrastructure upgrades by making zoning changes. Amendments related to easements and special permits for floor area bonus are being considered to incentivize private developers to improve public transit.

4. Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island growth

The building boom of the 2010s pushed New York City outwards as developers flocked to new neighborhoods outside of Manhattan.  Neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn were transformed as new construction accelerated throughout neighborhoods city-wide.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the number of new and converted apartments brought to market in 2018 in Brooklyn outpaced those in Manhattan for the first time since 2009. Queens, meanwhile, is expected to surpass Brooklyn in number of new projects, although the latter had been the engine of much of the last decade's growth.

Long Island City is the city's fastest growing neighborhood with 2,022 new apartments slated to come to the neighborhood in 2020. A part of LIC's popularity can be credited to the transformation of its waterfront. The Department of City Planning (DCP) has been busy working to increase public access to LIC as well as other waterfront areas throughout the city. The DCP will release the NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan: Vision 2030 at the end of 2020.

Long Island City




Pictured above: View of Long Island City in 2012 Pictured above: View of Long Island City in 2019


5. The new face of office space

In the 2010s, cubicles became a thing of the past as open floor plans and coworking became the new norm in offices. As companies and contractors began to embrace coworking, the flexible office space sector grew at an annual rate of 23 percent.

Code and Zoning Coworking Spaces

Coworking, driven in part by the rise of WeWork, Regus, and Knotel, has attracted devotees and dollars in particular. Businesses that rent in coworking spaces do so for the amenities, access to meeting rooms or communication equipment, operational flexibility and employee perks.

Many owners and developers have looked to attract such tenants by adding health and wellness features to buildings, as well as entertainment, experiential retail or social aspects. Doing so, however, can come with a whole set of code and zoning considerations.

Predictions for 2020

There are several neighborhoods that we expect will experience major transformations in the new decade. The East Midtown corridor is set to be a jobs and economic center as development kicks into high gear. JP Morgan Chase's new supertall at 270 Park will join One Vanderbilt in transforming and modernizing the Midtown East area. In the same vein, approved rezoning proposals are setting a big growth stage for neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Bushwick and Gowanus. Additionally, Amazon's recent announcement that they will be opening a new 450,000-square-foot warehouse on the western shore of Staten Island will be a boon to the area.

As we reflect on the 2010s, we want to extend a heartfelt "thank you" to all our clients for their loyalty and support over the past 32 years. As we embark on this new decade, we look forward to continuing to support our clients and their monumental projects that have shaped and redefined the city around us.

Construction Project

BY Dominic Tortorice / Industry News, Midtown East Rezoning, Brooklyn, Commercial Offices, Waterfront Development, NYC, Sustainability, Queens, Staten Island