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BCO conference: offices becoming obsolete faster than predicted

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Offices in London are becoming obsolete at a far greater pace than predicted with many properties built in the 1990s already out of date, BCO delegates learned today

The 450 attendees at the British Council for Offices (BCO) Annual Conference in Madrid heard from a raft of top name speakers, including former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, about the issues facing the capital’s office stock.

Ex-chairman of Land Securities and fellow panel speaker Paul Myners warned that an increasing demand from the Far East investors for commercial property in London meant the sector would need to adapt to a whole new office specification in order to continue attracting this new customer base.

He added that growing density requirements, frustrations caused by the ‘antiquated’ planning obligations of section 106 and a need for ever improving basic office functions such air conditioning and fast-functioning lifts posed a challenge to the industry to keep up with customer requirements.

The concerns were raised in the wake of research released last year by the BCO which found that building owners were underestimating the extent of obsolescence, with existing valuations putting the proportion of obsolete offices at just 6 per cent. However interviews with investors for the report suggested that figure was more likely to be up to 15 per cent. Office occupier told researchers that an even greater proportion of office stock wouldn’t meet their future needs.

Picking up on Myners’ suggestion that the younger generation of office workers were urban ‘flat dwellers’, which preferred to live as close as possible to the office, chairman of the Crown Estate Stuart Hampson argued that the public space around workplaces was just as important as the interior – requiring investment in infrastructure and support from local authorities for public transport links to office developments.

Hampson concluded by arguing that only by treating tenants as customers and working hard to keep them engaged would office owners become landlords of choice.

The 2013 BCO Annual Conference at the Hotel Meliá Castilla, Madrid began today (15 May) and runs until Friday 17 May.




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