KKS Savills's Katrina Kostic Samen reflects on the latest meeting of the Work Expert Panel, as the third cycle kicked off with a strong focus on the New London Agenda.
The NLA expert panels have set a collective goal for this cycle: contribution to the New London Agenda. The next Mayoral election will be important and the NLA want to work with each panel on a plan to inform and work with the new Mayor to deliver on the key objectives that will see London resilient, inclusive and sustainable in the future.
Over a series of meetings in the next year, the Panel will:
- Advise on the development of the New London Agenda
- Share thought-leadership on the key issues for London
Katrina summarised Cycle 2 which the panel concluded whilst the central theme topic remains commercial office space, it needs to encompass much more and include the needs of People (community, DEIA, social value) and Planet (sustainability, economy, construction).
Right product, Right place: We need to be delivering appropriate space and service in the right location to support both the city centre commercial occupiers/owners and local communities inclusive of social value.
People have been working from home (and other spaces) and have curated their own environment. Returning to the office, people have expectations and the workspace will have to deliver to meet these demands. People want different things from their workplace. Flexibility is vital to being in a building that meets not only their physical expectations but their values.
Should the panel consider ‘workspace’ to include home, office and third spaces? Pop-up workspaces and alternative uses for the under-utilised stock?
NextGen discussion is important, how they learn and progress. Having been given the choice of where and how to study is given, expectations of the same flexibility transfer to the workplace. For some, being told when and where to work is met with reluctance. Further thought will be given to the impact of the 4-day working week.
What will the future look like in terms of materiality and planning? The impact of construction on sustainability was debated, such as the decarbonisation of new steel buildings, and the panel acknowledged whilst the topic was vital, it was the remit of the Expert Panel on Sustainability. However, it was agreed there was a multitude of standards and the industry should agree on how carbon is measured.
With this in mind, the panel turned their attention to what the ‘new-new’ would look like. People want to occupy buildings that resonate with them. Though there are plenty of buildings with ‘good bones’, renovating and refurbishing is not going to be the only solution, new buildings will be constructed therefore the question is what they will need to do to meet user demand and social expectations.
For some owners and landlords, this means ensuring that the buildings are working as hard as possible. Such as restaurants and bars utilised as flex working space during the day, reverting to hospitality in the evening. A popular model for some, it has driven one hotel chain the ban laptops in their lobbies after 12 noon. There are high levels of low-grade stock that users will not favour and where landlords will be required to meet the increased ESG standards.
Can commercial offices learn from this by opening their doors to local communities, we know that offices are vital to supporting small businesses but can they do more? Offices with large meeting spaces could provide educational facilities or community space, a potential option with reduced office attendance, although what normalisation post-pandemic looks like is still unknown. The panel agreed that identifying where there is underserved demand in the city is key.
Katrina closed the discussion with a reminder that this cycle is about policies that can be taken to the new Mayor of London for the New London Agenda around the built environment. The group split into two with the first looking at the needs of the People (emotive) and the second at the needs of the Planet (tangible). The two sub-groups will meet to ensure definitions around the topics they will be discussing to avoid duplication between the two groups.
The second scheduled all-panel meeting is on 27 February 2023 where each sub-panel will feedback on their thoughts.