Flexibility, wellbeing, and social value: three marks of the future office

TFT Partner Alistair Allison chaired the judging panel for the British Council of Offices’ recent South of England and Wales Awards. From a strong pool of entries, Ali and his fellow judges visited and reviewed a selection of the best offices from around the region, which stood out for their forward-thinking designs focused on the needs of occupiers. 

We asked Ali: what stood out from this year’s selection? And what can we expect from leading office designs in the future?

Alistair Allison gives his Judge's Chair speech at the BCO South Awards
Alistair Allison giving his Judge’s Chair speech at the BCO South Awards

In my speech at the BCO Awards, I called out buzz-words like ‘sustainability’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘agile working’ and the like, which we’re all too familiar with but, thankfully, are becoming better understood as part of the client brief and design process, graduating from more superficial marketing claims.

Accordingly, I noticed that the best offices on the judges’ visits delivered tangible benefits through design, improving the experience of occupants and, therefore, the long-term prospects for owners.

While occupational density has remained consistent, design is making offices into places people want to be. Space is increasingly given over from the traditional office floor plate for specific activities, such as group working, hot-desking, concentration, relaxing or even yoga.

Perhaps it’s the rise of new developments, which dominated the entries this year, providing a ‘blank canvas’ for these design decisions. It’s an encouraging sign of a confident market; by comparison, the previous two years featured refurbished or recycled buildings in almost half of the entries. The fact that the ratio has changed this year is a result of where we are in the cycle, but nonetheless reassuring. If these new buildings are enabling the next generation of office development to flourish, I’m excited to see quality and occupant-centric design become more widespread across the sector.

We’re pleased to help our clients embrace these fundamentals too. 400 & 450 Longwater Avenue is a new office development in Green Park, Reading, targeting a WELL accreditation along with an ‘excellent’ BREEAM rating, assuring a high standard of wellbeing for its occupants alongside high sustainable credentials. When complete the scheme will offer a flexible, premium space which is set up for speculative occupiers with all kinds of requirements thanks to an easily-divisible floorplan, and these credentials provide further incentive for businesses which understand that wellbeing and sustainability in the workplace is becoming a minimum requirement for employees and customers alike.  

But what sits beyond these badges or certifications?

One area which shows a great deal of potential for us is social value; the extent to which a place or space contributes positively to its neighbouring environment and community. It’s defined in different ways by different stakeholders, so risks becoming a nebulous and complex subject, but in terms of meeting the challenge of sustainable development it has huge potential. We foresee that as social value is more clearly defined, so occupiers and therefore owners will rank it more highly in their criteria for buildings – in much the same process as wellbeing is seen today, and that sustainability was once seen.

We are hugely excited by this opportunity, and are working with the UKGBC to produce a framework and guidance for the industry which formalises and clarifies the role of social value for a range of applications in the industry. 

In the coming years, I hope these steps will drive more interest in positive social impacts and that ‘the best of the best’ is seen increasingly in terms of what a building adds to the community within its walls and beyond – who knows, maybe we can skip the buzzword stage this time! 

TFT at BCO Conference 2019

BCO Conference 2019 will be held in Copenhagen

The British Council for Offices (BCO) kicks off its annual conference next week (June 5-7) in Copenhagen. We at TFT are proud to support the event and to join its focus on the theme of arbejdsglæde, the Danish word and principle of ‘joy at work’.

Employers are increasingly diversifying their workplaces to represent their culture and to help occupants feel more ‘at home’ while at work. But the built environment can do more to improve the joy and wellbeing of occupants of offices and other kinds of spaces, by improving how we create, manage and inhabit buildings.

Three TFT partners attending the BCO Conference share some of the issues they’ll be interested to discuss in Copenhagen, when it comes to creating and maintaining the office of the future:

Alistair Allison: customer experience becomes building performance

As a recent judging chair for the BCO’s Southern Awards, it’s fantastic to see a more confident marketplace emerging which puts all the familiar buzzwords we’re used to hearing about, at the heart of a client brief. The outcome is attributes like sustainability, wellbeing, flexible working and so on aren’t just for marketing messages, but built in to the office from the outset.

I expect to see this become more mainstream as customer experience becomes widely adopted as a defining criteria for building performance. What could that look like? To start with, a more consultative process where building owner and occupants define these performance metrics together, to make sure the ‘lived-in’ space is well tailored to those who use it.

In our ongoing work for 400 & 450 Longwater Avenue, this speculative development is deliberately designed for flexibility to serve a diverse set of occupier needs, including close working with the building management team to ensure that the building would perform as required for different kinds of occupiers through its life.

Mat Lown: linking better buildings with social value

What would a ‘better workplace’ contribute to the city’s wider agenda? BCO’s 2019 venue in Copenhagen recognises the relationship between buildings, the urban ecosystem and our cultural/social needs – in that spirit, I want to explore the social value buildings can bring not only to their occupants but their neighbours too.

Where to start? Taking a Danish cue, offices can do more to support sustainable transport infrastructure with the appropriate facilities in-house for changing, storage, equipment maintenance and so on, all of which make it easier for travellers to choose to cycle, for instance, rather than get the train or drive.

Otherwise, stimulating greater biodiversity inside and out, understanding that we feel more relaxed and happier with natural greenery around us. Offices in particular could also contribute directly to the city’s clean energy credentials fairly simply, with photo-voltaic panels on a roof supplementing the building’s energy use or even feeding power to the grid.

There are many more opportunities besides – realising them is less a question of building type or function than the priorities of its owner for long-term wellbeing of occupier and local community alike.

Dan Henn: realising sustainable value in legacy buildings

It’s tempting to think that the greatest opportunities for better buildings lie in new development, where we can start from scratch and implement best practice from the outset. But repurposing and refurbishing existing buildings is for many cities a more sustainable means of meeting the needs of modern businesses and the talent they rely on.

There are efficiencies and savings to be found and more scope for alteration than many might believe. Our work on the likes of Wellington House and Pinnacle House in London highlight the scope to grow an existing space and upgrade a building for a better occupier experience. The considerations to do so run the gamut from engineering challenges, conservation and keeping the surrounding area (including businesses and residential communities) running as normal.

Finding the right project management skillset is crucial to navigate these challenges, where collaborative and attentive specialists can make sure the office spaces of the future find a productive home in legacy buildings.

TFT at RICS Building Surveying Conference

Last week TFT decamped to the Royal Lancaster Hotel to join the 2019 RICS Building Surveying Conference (May 2), an industry gathering with a full programme of seminars and panels tackling the state and future of surveying.

Katie Brooks, Associate Building Surveyor, chaired three sessions on two topics across the day, hosting almost 600 people as part of her role in the RICS Conference Working Group which shaped the day’s agenda and content.

Katie’s first session was on offsite and modular construction, a topic which is regaining recognition in the industry due to the cost saving opportunities it offers, and the scale which modular building techniques can provide. A recent RICS report on Modern Methods of Construction declared modular methods could be a route to accelerate home building for the Government’s target of 300,000 homes per year by 2020.

Katie chaired a presentation and Q&A by Tim Prosser of Hawk Technical, who examined the pros and cons of modular and off-site construction methods. Tim drew on case studies he has witnessed over the past few years, and weighed up the benefits for different kinds of developer, and he also showed how differing approaches would result in implications for building sequence, logistics, sustainability and design process on top of the core considerations of time, cost and quality.

The second session on Katie’s agenda was a presentation on the building regulations, and specifically enforcement. A presentation from David McCullogh (who chairs the RICS Fire Safety Leaders Forum and sits on CIC’s specialist Grenfell panel) reminded the audience that the industry has a duty to self-regulate, and to take responsibility for proposing improvements.

We also saw TFT Partners David Mann and Chris Gibbons take the stage to give an update on Technical Due Diligence (TDD) as the RICS prepares to launch the latest Guidance Note on TDD. The pair presented best practice updates on assessing risk, how to approach surveys for different building types, how to use technology such as drones to maximise access and value from a survey, and what clients expect from the best surveyors.

In summary, those are: sharp detective instincts, a commercial perspective on what impacts value the most, and clear, timely communication of the key facts.

Scotland and M&E Partners named amid national team development

We’re pleased to announce a set of promotions across TFT which strengthens our position in Scotland and our M&E offering, as well as growth across several key service lines and regions:

Promotion and new joiners, clockwise from top left: Marc Hill, Lorna Melton-Scott, Andrew Ferrznolo, Jon Grimes, Neil Wotherspoon, Greg Curtis, Clayton McClean, Dan May, Oliver Morris and Shanika Fraser.

Neil Wotherspoon becomes Partner. Having headed up TFT’s Edinburgh practice since it was established in 2016, Neil has grown our presence in the region with major projects including the landmark Edinburgh St James redevelopment, which we monitor for APG.

Marc Hill becomes Partner for M&E, based in our Bristol practice. Marc joined as part of independent M&E consultancy Wye Solutions, which was acquired by TFT in 2014. Today Marc leads a 15-strong team across Bristol, Guildford, London and Birmingham, maximising the value of property portfolios with enhanced building services which combine sustainability and performance.

Reflecting continual growth in our Development and Project Consultancy, Andrew Ferrznolo and Jon Grimes both become Technical Partners, in London and Cardiff respectively.

Oliver Morris is now an Associate in TFT’s Sustainability Consultancy, following commendation as a UKGBC Future Leader. Dan May becomes Associate, specialising in commercial building consultancy, based in London

Regional growth around TFT’s Birmingham office has also led to the promotion of two Senior Building Surveyors, Greg Curtis and Clayton McLean – and the arrival of Shanika Fraser to the practice as a Project Manager from Allen Construction Consultancy.

In Guildford, we welcome Nathan Smith, BS graduate from Atkins.

With new joiners and team shifts underway, we’re also very happy to name Lorna Melton-Scott as HR Manager, based in Guildford. She’s here to provide higher-level HR advice and support across a diverse team of specialists, as well as lead recruitment for further new roles on the way.

Reported in Property Week. Read the article here:

UKGBC, TFT and partners produce new Circular Economy guidance

Many people will be familiar with ‘the circular economy’, as the concept and terminology rises up the political and business agenda. But how can we turn thought into action in our own industry? UKGBC and TFT teamed up with stakeholders across the industry to publish new guidance to do just that.

Circular economy principles can have different implications across different industries, products or services – but The Ellen MacArthur Foundation identifies these three key traits of a successful circular model:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

It’s hard to name an industry which is doing all these things, but as we face more strain on resources of all kinds, it’s incumbent on everyone to improve models which generate waste and pollution for sustainability.

“…the quantity of reused materials in construction has actually decreased since 1998. At the same time, the rates of extraction of materials in our fast-developing world are already way beyond planetary capacity.”

Sunand Prasad, Founder Penoyre & Prasad and Trustee of UKGBC

We face a big challenge to employ circular principles across the built environment and the supply chain which feeds it, due to the systemic change which is needed. Closer coordination is one way to achieve this.

To that end, TFT partnered with UKGBC and a range of construction industry stakeholders to formalise the steps to meet an industry-wide circularity objective.

The first output of this work is a guidance document, focusing on RIBA stages 1 & 2 (Preparation & Brief and Concept Design, respectively). Looking closely at setting a project up for circular success, the guidance provide practical steps to realise the commercial value of circular construction, from ensuring supply chain effectiveness to informing project management and mitigating risks along the way.

If you’re interested in learning how the guidance can be applied to maximise the long term value of your building project or your wider portfolio, contact Helen Newman.

The full guidance can be downloaded from UKGBC, here.

So you think you know property? A Monday morning brainteaser

MIPIM 2019: TFT’s top 3

Another year, another heady mix of sun, sea, beach lunches and wide discussion about today’s property world and its future.

As ever, the week after MIPIM is all about getting back to the day job, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the key themes which came through at this year’s gathering, away from the Croisette.

We’re lucky to have spent time with a broad swathe of industry insiders including investors, developers, architects, lawyers and local authority bodies – who each bring a different perspective to the challenges at hand.

And the really interesting news? It’s not all about Brexit.  

In fact, the quietly upbeat tone suggested many people had moved past a ‘doom and gloom’ outlook. Perhaps, having been busily accounting for potential risks, we’re now in a better place to look ahead and consider the opportunities for economic shifts and innovation in industry practice.

With those opportunities in mind, here are our top three MIPIM takeaways:

The UK market looks buoyant, and less London-centric. 

At MIPIM, the Birmingham and Manchester stands really stood out, communicating impressive plans for future growth in their respective regions. A replica of Scotland’s kelpies also gleamed in the Cannes sunshine, reminding guests that high levels of investment north of the border point to great things for Scotland’s future development.

We have always backed regional growth and development from our offices across the country, operating in the Midlands, North, West and South-East of England, and with a rapidly-growing Scotland practice. The team in Edinburgh is currently instructed as monitoring surveyors for the Edinburgh St James development. This landmark project is set to reinvigorate a site in the heart of Scotland’s capital as a c£800m mixed-use scheme, bringing new retail, leisure and residential prospects to the centre.

Find out more about: Edinburgh St James

While growth is predicted beyond London, Grade A office space remains under-supplied inside the M25. We are looking forward to guiding a series of major developments to serve this need in the coming months, using our experience in significant development and refurbishment projects geared to create sustainable and high-yield office space.

Find out more about: 338 Euston Road, The Heals Building, Wellington House

Major growth ahead for PRS

The idea of home ownership is becoming less of a cultural norm, as flexible lifestyles and financial liquidity take precedence over climbing the property ladder. Accordingly, the prospects are great for owners and investors to capitalise on huge demand for quality offerings in the private rental sector (PRS), which looks to outstrip its supply.

At MIPIM, Grainger CEO Helen Gordon suggested that demand for PRS is set to reach 7.2m households by 2025, while we currently have just 4.5m in place today.

But it’s not just the volume of property set to increase. We’re already seeing a diverse array of schemes offered up for the rental market, and if we as occupiers expect to spend our days in rented accommodation we’ll expect a broader range of rental solutions (buildings and services) to fit our personal needs. Buildings will be flexible and run in more innovative ways to meet those demands and get the most value from a hugely promising sector.

This isn’t a UK-specific trend, as we’re seeing similar forces playing out in European markets driving demand across the board.

Contact David Mann to learn more about the opportunities and challenges to navigate to make the most of the growing PRS sector.

Changing building safety from a regulation to a feature

A conversation we had several times throughout MIPIM centred on building safety, particular when it comes to fire and cladding issues. The impact of the Hackitt review of course is a significant driver of these inquiries, though we believe it’s also an indication of forward-thinking landlords understanding public attention is shifting to become more aware of these matters.

Increasingly, occupiers will query and make decisions of their property choices based on the safety measures in place. So a robust safety strategy, implemented well, will be crucial in residential accommodation and also for commercial property assets. The occupier market won’t necessarily see regulation as isolated to, for instance, residential towers of a certain height – they’ll expect all buildings to perform to a high standard where safety, health and wellbeing of inhabitants is concerned.

Investigating and implementing the right safety strategy is a nuanced process which plays out differently per building. Contact Alan Pemberton to learn more about how we can meet your needs.

TFT Partner becomes Chairman of local Bristol charity

The West of England MS Therapy Centre, newly branded as ‘The Brightwell’ is one of TFT’s local charity partners for 2019 and TFT Partner, Paul Spaven, has today been announced as their incoming Chairman.

The charity, based in Bradley Stoke of North Bristol, provides both treatments and therapies to those living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and other neurological conditions. Paul joined the charity as a Trustee in April 2016 following his introduction to their team when completing remedial works on the Centre and has since supported the centre through donations, fundraising and volunteering, both individually and alongside colleagues in the TFT Bristol office.

In September 2018, Paul joined three TFT colleagues in the TFT-sponsored fundraiser “Take the Plunge” for the Centre, donating over £750 to bring comfort and ease to the daily lives of the members from the centre.

Last May, TFT were also sponsors of the “2018 Brunel Neurological Alliance Study Day” which focussed on mental health and wellbeing with the aim to provide a deeper understanding of the impact neurological conditions can have on these, and vice-versa.

As part of his new role, Paul will be taking forward the new branding as a catalyst for growth, recognition and development of the centre and its services. He aims to improve the facilities for members, widen the appeal and use of its facilities and to increase access to oxygen service, such as for those requiring a speedy recovery from sports injuries.

My journey to property: Pardip Kaur, Business Data Manager

Lastly, we speak to Pardip Kaur, Business Data Manager, to learn a bit about her journey to TFT and why she encourages more women to continue pushing boundaries and add something unique to the property industry!

How did you get into the industry and your role?

I started working in the property industry 20 years ago at RICS within their events department. I was at the RICS for 6.5 years. When I joined RICS, the events were heavily attended by male surveyors, but by the time I left, I was working with females who were on the professional working groups for building surveying and building control.

My profession means I can work within a variety of industries, but it’s because of the wonderful people I have met through the years that I have remained in property circle (some of these are now my close friends!).

Have you come across any particular challenges within it? 

I’ve not really found any challenges within the industry. This might be due to the type of roles I have had and my strong personality. 

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the industry?  

My experience within the industry has always been a positive one. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it had not have been for the people I met throughout my career. The industry is very open and approachable.  

My journey to property: Jennifer Hobart, Senior Building Surveyor

Here we speak to Jennifer Hobart, Senior Building Surveyor, to learn a bit about her journey to TFT and why she encourages more women to fight stereotypes and continue pushing boundaries in their work and career.

How did you get into the industry and your role?

I went down the standard route of applying to university as an encouraged next step after 6th form but very quickly realised I did not enjoy studying Classics as much I thought I might. As a result, I dropped out and went home. However, I’d always found the architectural part of Classics interesting and somehow found a very tenuous link to surveying.

Surveying as a career seemed to fit with how I saw my work- life going. I didn’t always want to be in the office so getting out and about to see buildings sounded interesting. Though I was quite disappointed when I found out that using the tripods you see on the sides of roads would not be part of the job!

Have you come across any particular challenges within it?

Not really. Though I do recall being told early on that this might not be the career for me… Luckily, I’m stubborn and it spurred me on!

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it/who are considering going into the industry?

Do your research and ask current professionals about the job – there are so many directions you can go in. When I first started at university, I only really envisaged surveying houses for homebuyers, it didn’t even occur to me that there were commercial routes, valuation, general practice etc. Make sure the university you apply to is RICS accredited.

Lastly, always have your phone on your person on site, you never know when you might accidentally lock yourself in a cupboard!