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Performance spaces

New legislation and funding methods are making good design more attractive for developers as well as users

Users and owners are interested in the way their workplace performs: whether the buildings and spaces support their working patterns and corporate aspirations, and whether they provide a safe, comfortable and productive environment.

The location and accessibility of a development, its function and appearance and its whole-life costs (including both capital and running costs) are all aspects of performance, but not as important as the performance of the workforce.

All these features should be measured and understood. In the BCO 2000 Guide to Best Practice, they are identified as indicators of good design.

Hard evidence that sustainable design improves workplace productivity is usually thin on the ground. But British Airways claims that annual savings of £15 million are being achieved at its new Waterside headquarters building, designed by Niels Torp, through increased productivity and reduced staff turnover and sickness leave. And at a psychiatric hospital in Hove, designed by Powell & Moya, fewer incidents of threatening behaviour have been recorded than in the old Brighton General Hospital.

Key performance criteria The guide identifies the key performance criteria that affect productivity in the workplace. The BREEAM 98 environmental assessment method is singled out as a key tool in establishing levels of performance for commercial offices that represent industry best practice.

Other key indicators dealt with are workstyle, occupancy standards and recognition that daylight and visual stimulus are essential elements of perceived levels of comfort in the workplace. The setting of a common temperature standard for all offices is a recognition that temperature by itself has to be reviewed with other criteria such as radiant effects and air movements.The table below left illustrates the options available.

Capital cost, and the variables that affect the out-turn cost, are identified as a performance issue in the sense that design choices, made after the variables have been established, will directly affect building cost. Simple and effective design makes the building easier and faster to construct.

Embodied energy costs, costs in use and adaptability are also identified as key performance indicators, along with many reference sources to enable a better understanding of the issues involved.

PFI and Part L While enlightened clients and developers will encourage their design teams to embrace the virtues of sustainable design and procurement that inform the BCO 2000 Guide, it is always with the nagging proviso that the benefit accrues to the end user, the occupier, and not to the developer who funds the initial project. In the commercial marketplace there is therefore a wholly understandable reluctance to speculate on sustainable design when the cost benefit for the developer or investment fund is marginal or even non-existent.

Two fundamental changes in how buildings are procured are now emerging, and over the next half decade will increase the attractiveness of sustainable design for funders and developers Private finance initiatives (PFIs), in crude terms, take a view of net present value over the lifecycle of an investment. This is based on the initial capital cost of the building envelope and on the workplace activities that comprise the running costs over the lifespan of that particular PFI scheme. Almost overnight, the cost of servicing a building and the multitude of activities that make up a workplace pattern of occupation become of key interest. This is a complete reversal of the mantra of the traditional landlord who looked for a 25-year lease with a blue-chip client, upward-only rent reviews and a huge financial benefit from an onerous dilapidations claim at the end of the lease.

PFI schemes have so far been for the public sector. However, the entry of organisations such as Bouygues and Bovis Lend Lease to the commercial property sector is making a difference.

These organisations, which will not only fund and construct but also manage the property as an investment opportunity, have a vested interest in the added value of sustainable design.

The other key change that will increasingly affect the way that we design and procure commercial workspace will be driven by EU legislation. A revision to Part L of the Building Regulations is now under way and all the indications are that sustainable design and procurement will be promoted increasingly to ensure we meet EUcommitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

The BCO Guide 2000 recognises that changes in legislation to reflect the increasing importance of sustainable design are inevitable.The guide will be updated regularly to ensure it continues to be recognised as the premier reference source in the procurement of commercial workspace.

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