New London Architecture

People and planet: the key message for future workspaces

Thursday 05 May 2022

Yetta Reardon Smith of KKS Savills reports from the latest meeting of the NLA Expert Panel on Work
The third session for the NLA Expert Panel of Work was held on 25 April.  Katrina Kostic Samen opened the meeting, welcoming the panel and summarising the topics for discussion.  
When the NLA Expert Panel on Work met on 21 January 2022, the sub-groups had discussed three key questions relating to the post-Covid workplace. These were Demand- What do people want?  Value – What do people care about?  Specification – What will buildings look like?  At this, the third session, each sub group presented their thoughts.
Demand:  Hybrid working and what will be ‘normal’ is unlikely to become quantifiable until later this year however London’s role remains crucial for the UK economy:  its eco-system of sectors, institutions, government, tourist attractions, arts, culture and leisure attracting organisations and individuals.  
The landlord and occupier relationship is changing with landlords and owners shifting to a service-orientated approach. There is an increased focus on place and delivering user experience to ‘earn’ the commute.  Sustainability remains a priority in the race for net-zero carbon with health and wellbeing fast ascending up the priority list.  Occupiers are seeking greater flexibility, with more agile responses to traditional real estate propositions.
Communities form an essential part of the built office environment and there are a number of key criteria that communities seek in their requirement for space.  These focus around the opportunities delivered by sector specialisms and expertise which can foster new products and services as well as deliver opportunities for growth.  Spaces not only need to provide safety and comfort but also be well connected to local amenities and transportation.  The rise in affordable office highlights cost as a driver however wider options around pricing and flexibility impact decisions. 
Value: The pandemic has accelerated many changes around what people wanted from their workplaces, both collectively and individually.  People value and care about the planet which can be aided by responding to the climate emergency through material use, carbon & energy reduction, biodiversity and in-use performance.  Human and social factors are important through the lens of ESG / CSR alongside workplace diversity and inclusivity, delivering a range of settings responding to physical and sensory requirements, and supporting the wider local community.  Flexibility and service are valued, owner occupier relationships are important to understand changes in occupier requirements to deliver an end product to meet demand.
Specification:  Society’s response will affect how buildings look in the coming decades. Focus has been given to carbon emissions through construction, concluding that net zero embodied buildings are not possible without purchasing offset.  The most significant reductions will be through re-purposing existing stock. To achieve these gains the materiality of building will change, broadly looking like they do today with the addition of  storeys, bio-based materials, terraces, greenery and activated facades and will include circular materials markets with repurposed products.  Planning rules will need to change to allow the use of components that can be sourced, rather than made specifically for a defined aesthetic. Occupiers are seeking greater flexibility, some through the coworking models and others through an on demand workplace. Amenities feature highly in this enhanced experience with wellness facilities and convenience services.
Three thought provoking presentations, demonstrating common themes across all of the topics including occupier experience; the wider definition of ‘place’; environmental and social emphasis and changes needed in both construction methods and planning requirements.
All Expert Panels have been tasked with generating 2 to 3 topics to be added to the NLA Agenda, naturally there will be common themes across all panels, which will highlight their importance for consideration by the Mayor of London. Undoubtably a powerful message to be delivered by the expert panels. The panel agreed, following the presentations, the ongoing focus will be People and Planet, and will develop a long list of agenda items for distillation for a short list review at the final meeting in July 2022.




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