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BCO 2014: Designers moot 24-hour office concept

Modern offices should be adapted to provide out-of-hours living and leisure space, according to workplace strategists

Speakers at the British Council for Offices (BCO) conference in Birmingham today urged occupiers and developers to rent out parts of their offices for alternative uses, including temporary housing and evening events.

The radical concept of a ’24-hour office’ was mooted by Daniel Gardner, a space planner at workplace consultancy KKS Strategy, as a way of cutting costs and making more efficient use of space.

Architects and designers should stop thinking of a building solely as an office, residential or retail property and instead consider how a range of uses can be designed into one building.

‘Then you could have a building that enables eight hours of working, eight hours of playing – with an art gallery, pop-up bar or other evening events on one floor of the office – and eight hours of living, providing self-contained flats on the top floors, for instance,’ he said.

Gardner was speaking at a conference session about the benefits and limitations of innovation in office development. Simon Whittaker, associate director at ORMS, warned that ‘what is innovative today might not be tomorrow’, and said a balance must be struck between ‘specific’ design for a particular purpose and ‘generic’ design that allows for flexibility of use and future occupier demands.

He pointed to the concept of “third space” – where workspaces would be designed into various parts of a mixed-use scheme, not just the space allocated for commercial – and the 24-hour office. ‘Buildings should be designed so they can be easily adapted and reused as trends change in 20 years’ time,’ he said.

However, delegates including Lee Higson, associate director at Eric Parry Architects, warned of the prohibitive constraints of data protection and corporate security.

And David Pringle, Co-operative Group’s director of the NOMA development in Manchester, said innovation in building was not always necessary or desirable.

‘We want to be innovative but also have to be pragmatic. Sometimes financial considerations rule against risky innovations – particularly in speculative development – so it is sometimes about using tried and tested approaches and technologies in innovative ways.’

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