Bob Day, workplace design expert and Director of Architecture at architecture, urbanism and design practice Broadway Malyan, said:
“As the UK emerges from the economic downturn we are seeing a shift in the way occupiers utilise workspace and what they look for when considering taking new space.
“During the economic downturn, occupiers sought to sweat their assets and reduce operational costs by intensifying occupational density, creating different workplace settings and harnessing technology.
“Occupiers are now looking for space which offers higher occupational densities, with new build speculative office footprints down from one person to ten square metres to eight square metres – and they are searching for more flexible, shorter leases with more regular breaks, and spaces which will enable them to size up or size down at will.
“However, for the majority of investors, prime rent levels remain too low in many locations to make new speculative office projects viable and, as a result, occupiers face a diminishing stock of ‘Grade A’ space.
“Instead, occupiers face a supply of largely unfashionable, anachronistic, obsolete stock, which has been left behind by technological advances, changes in workplace practice, is inflexible, expensive to run, poorly maintained and environmentally sub-standard.
“One approach is to refashion existing office stock – which is likely to be more central in location and closer to shops, amenities and public transport, result in a quicker planning approval, benefit from historic parking standards which are more generous and deliver a more sustainable re-use of an existing building.
“Indeed, we are partnering with enlightened clients which are commissioning studies to assess options – from a light-touch, short-term refurbishment offering cheap office space to business start-ups, through to large-scale refurbishment and remodelling projects involving striping back to frame, additional floors and extensions – all benchmarked against a new-build alternatives.
“Permitted development rights have also seen a significant number of office buildings converted to residential use. Our own experience is that office buildings constructed in the 1960’s, which feature narrower floor plates that provide decent levels of natural light and domestic-compatible slab-to-slab heights, are the most suitable for conversion – rather than regenerated office space.
“Whatever the approach, Generation Y will soon be the largest age group in the workplace and we must remember that a great workplace is centred around the people who use it and the physical environment must play its part by energising and lifting the spirit of those who use it – as a sector we must face up to the challenge of creating places that appeal to a wide and diverse workforce.
“Modern-day workers expect to be based in vibrant city centre locations with good transport links and social amenities, and employers need to respond accordingly to ensure they attract and retain the best talent.
“In this respect, the Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) sector leads the way, however, one solution does not fit all – and while the ‘new and shiny’ still has a place, the focus is moving to innovative, edgy and contemporary design with new technology at the heart.
“This means that suspended ceilings are out and the sustainable reuse of existing buildings, with a semi-industrial feel of bare brickwork, exposed services, bare metal raised floors and distressed furniture with a variety of work settings, is in – the big question is, where next?”
Distinguished by its global reach with 16 studios across world centres, unrivalled diversity with 500+ design experts and distinctive client focus with over 75% income from repeat business, Broadway Malyan creates world-class and fully-integrated cities, places and buildings to unlock lasting value.