Make Architects founder and president of the British Council of Offices (BCO), Ken Shuttleworth, talks about the future of workplace design ahead of this year’s BCO conference in London
What is the main theme for this year’s BCO conference?
London Refocused, providing attendees with an opportunity to see the city afresh and think about how to make it even better.
How is the issue of Brexit being addressed at the conference?
We’ll be joined by leading Brexit economist and former economic adviser to Boris Johnson, Gerard Lyons, who will be debating the impact of leaving the EU on London with former US diplomat James Rubin, former British ambassador to the US Christopher Meyer, and BCO chief executive Richard Kauntze.
Which new technologies are altering – or will alter – the way offices are designed in the future?
At Make we’ve embraced virtual reality to help clients better understand their schemes and for us to design smarter. We can experience a space before it’s built and – in an age where floorplans are getting deeper to accommodate more people – make sure the balance between people and floor space isn’t tipping too far.
What one thing do you think needs to change in the next generation of offices?
We need to consider and elevate the shared amenity spaces – the breakout spaces, cafés, gyms. These should be an integral part of the building. Places to work are no longer just rows of desks; they are places to meet, collaborate, share. The social side is critical.
What mistakes in new office design do you most often see?
Assuming that one size fits all. It doesn’t. It’s great to see more landlords being creative and adaptable in the offices they build, whether speculative or bespoke.
Do you think the offices you have designed over the last 10 years are flexible enough to respond to future demands?
That’s an open-ended question really – how far into the future do we go? Most buildings are built to last 25-30 years, but we have always tried to exceed that. And where the client shares in our ambitions, we always look to push the boat further. 55 Baker Street is a renovation completed in 2008 which has served numerous occupants and easily performs on par with newbuilds.
Has the environmental challenge of office design been cracked?
No. There have been huge strides, but without doubt more needs to be done. Glass is still the material of choice for office facades, which, when combined with the need for cooling, instantly presents an environmental challenge. It’s not just the engineer’s job though – there needs to be a cultural shift to push sustainability up the agenda.
Is the new wellbeing drive a fad?
As a principle, no. But I’m not sure how robust the grading is at the moment. It certainly needs to be able to work alongside other drivers, ensuring the building itself is sustainable as well as providing for the wellbeing of its occupants. The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, but as it stands, some areas seem to preclude one or the other, which will need to be reassessed if it is to succeed.
What is your favourite office building, by another architect, of the last five years?
The new Bloomberg office by Foster + Partners will be one of the standout office buildings of this generation.
Foster + Partners’ nearly completed Bloomberg building
How is the BCO relevant in these times of uncertainty?
The BCO provides members with an opportunity to share best practice and new ways of thinking so we may continue to help the UK produce world-class office buildings – putting the UK commercial property market in a good position to address the evolving challenges.
Ken Shuttleworth is the conference chairman and incoming president of the British Council for Offices. The British Council for Offices Annual Conference will take place in London between the 9-11 May 2017.
Click here to see this year’s BCO conference programme