Top considerations for retail project design

Top considerations for retail project design

Top considerations for retail project design

Modern retail projects offer tremendous scope for architects and design professionals to make a bold statement, as USG Boral’s Shayne Nyholm-Hunter is currently witnessing in the marketplace.

Recent trends in retail centre projects are for big open spaces, often with massive glass plating. While this gives them a spacious and opulent feel, it’s important to think about the comfort (and safety) of retail customers. Shopping centres aim to have visitors stay longer – to shop in more retail outlets, attend restaurants, cinemas and other entertainment areas. This requires careful consideration of how to create the desired ‘ambiance’ – in the choice of materials used in internal fit-outs.


We’re seeing a lot of interest in metal baffle ceilings for retail projects. They can incorporate acoustical material to help reduce reverberant noise within a shopping centre and metal baffle ceilings also offer architects and interior designers the opportunity to create an impressive feature.

Metal baffle ceilings can be coated in a variety of ways to reflect design intentions and create the desired atmosphere. For example, they can take the appearance of timber – adding warmth without the cost and potential issues (such as warping/discolouration) associated with the use of real timber. While real timber is desirable where it can be touched and felt, its aesthetic on ceilings can also be achieved with highly realistic metal coatings.

The beauty of metal baffle ceilings is that they can effectively disguise necessary services such as lighting, CCTV and sprinkler systems. Ceilings can remain open and visually appealing and still meet safety requirements without ‘breaking the visual line’.

Another trend in shopping centre ceilings – and walls – is the use of customised plasterboard. Plasterboard can be cut and joined to make distinctive patterns to create reliefs and textures to enhance the feel of large areas. They can deflect hidden lighting to add warmth, give a sense of flow throughout communal areas and even reflect different zones within a large retail centre to help visitors navigate within it.


With upmarket dining areas increasingly integrated within shopping centres – often complementing multiplex cinemas – noise can be a real challenge. Acoustical treatments in and on walls and ceilings can help reduce ‘shopper stress’, which means they’re more likely to see the experience as relaxing and pleasurable – so stay within the environment longer and visit more often.

Another recent trend is highly publicised gala launches and in-store promotions at ‘big-name’ retail stores. Queues for these events often snake around a shopping centre for hundreds of metres, and the chatter can become overwhelming, especially when it’s ‘rebounding’ from hard, unforgiving surfaces.

These trends mean that wall and ceiling materials used on the internal surfaces of a retail environment to reduce reverberant noise and enhance the customer experience have become an essential factor in the design process.


These days, retail environments have very little ‘down time’. This makes ongoing facilities management and maintenance a significant factor in their design. Longevity of fittings is also a consideration; no shopping centre owner wants internal materials to show their age within a short period of time – it’s simply a bad investment in a new build or refurbishment project.

This is another reason why metal baffle ceilings are an increasingly popular ceiling choice for many shopping centres within Australia and around the world. They’re easy to clean and maintain, only requiring an infrequent wipe or dust – which reduces facilities maintenance costs. They don’t deteriorate from moisture or heat; they’re fire-safe and make it easy to maintain and change the lighting and other services they so effectively hide from view.

Discover more design inspiration here or contact our Architectural Team on 1800 226 215.    

Shayne Nyholm-Hunter is a Specifications Manager with USG Boral’s Architectural Support Services Melbourne team.