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BCO 2018: What will be the next game-changer for office design?

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To mark the start of the BCO 2018 conference, the AJ is asking top designers, engineers and agents about the future of office development in the UK

This year the BCO annual conference is heading to Berlin – a city where, according to BCO senior vice-president Katrina Kostic Samen, the ‘future arrived early’. The three-day conference takes ‘diversity and inclusion’ as its theme.

As technology revolutionises the way we work and the workforce itself becomes more diverse, office design is having to work hard to keep up the pace. As Helen Berresford, head of interior design at Sheppard Robson, has said: ’It is no longer enough just to provide a prairie of open-plan desks or bland acres of monotone ceilings.’ 

The sell-out conference will provide architects and developers with a forum for exploring and engaging in some of the discussions on where the future of office design is heading. Ahead of these debates, the AJ asked our panel for their predictions regarding trends we can expect to see in the next 12 months.

What will be the one game-changer for office design?

Andrew Barnes, head of tenant representation, JLL
We will start to see a demand for offices that can be used more intensively and have greater adaptability to provide multi-function spaces. One example of this is the inclusion of internal staircases, which can be used as a platform for staff meetings or entertaining space.

Roma Agrawal, associate director at AECOM
Over the last few years we’ve seen more of a focus on wellbeing and this is likely to continue. An organisation’s biggest investment is its people. Companies are recognising the need to be much more people-centric and are looking to humanise the workplace.

John McRae, director, Orms 
An emerging trend is the desire to incorporate other uses such as cultural spaces, music venues or even urban farming into the lower floors of office buildings to provide more interesting and diverse amenities for workers and visitors out of working hours. Offices will become destinations in their own right, day and night.

Hazel Rounding, director, shedkm 
Probably technological advancements such as Li-Fi [wireless communication between devices] more than actual space changes. However, demand may be the biggest game-changer in the UK post-Brexit. We’ll no doubt be looking at fewer global corporate models but hopefully reacting to a world of creative, more flexible, shorter-term leases and budding entrepreneurs.

Nick Jackson, director, Eric Parry Architects:
Why hard-wire the desk? Surely fully wireless offices are just round the corner, which will liberate us from the static desk environment.

Helen Berresford, partner, Sheppard Robson 
The disruption of the traditional corporate office. It is no longer enough just to provide a prairie of open-plan desks or bland acres of monotone ceilings. Now the successful workplace needs to act more like a series of neighbourhoods that can support greater democratisation and complexity within the organisation.

Ken Shuttleworth, director, Make
Whether it happens in the next 12 months or not I can’t say, but I truly think eliminating plastic will be huge. It’s affecting so many different industries already.

It’s something everyone is thinking about, and undoubtedly we should be looking at our supply chains and practices too.

Eliminating plastic will be huge

J-J Lorraine, director, Morrow + Lorraine
The decline and fall of the absentee landlord.

Simon Allford, director, AHMM
This obsession with the idea that the working environment changes as swiftly as technology evolves is a mixture of hype, hope and hogwash with a dash of marketing. We will continue to pursue better, simpler, more legible and more delightful designs that allow people as much as possible to do what they have to do.

Hanif Kara, co-founder, AKT II
I hope recent buildings such as the Bloomberg headquarters and White Collar Factory in Old Street will yield some post-occupancy data, like energy use, and happiness of workers and owners, that will begin to impact the way the game is played so we can bind some of this into the next generation of buildings.

Pix ahmm white collar factory4

Pix ahmm white collar factory4

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Readers' comments (1)

  • "Why hard-wire the desk? Surely fully wireless offices are just round the corner, which will liberate us from the static desk environment"

    Not until data transfer over Wi-Fi, security and cost align (downwards) to match what standard purple cabling gets you.

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