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The Incredible Shrinking Office

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In May 2009 the British Council for Offices, at its annual conference, published its new Specification for offices. Last updated in 2005, the Specification had been widely used as a benchmark by property owners, funders and developers.

Introduced in response to a multitude of environmental legislation and the rapidly changing needs of occupiers, the 2009 Specification will, therefore, have a profound effect on how future office space is designed.

Gareth Owen, property partner at Keeble Hawson commented:

"This new Specification is 'a lean, green fighting machine'. By lean and green, I mean that the new Spec attempts to be environmentally friendly. Real estate is responsible for some 40% of the UK's total carbon emissions and government targets call for new offices to be zero carbon by 2019."

"New buildings will have to be more adaptable and flexible. The forecast is for hotter and longer summers and colder winters. Existing buildings were designed to cope with our more benign traditional climate. For example, you can expect to see less glass in new buildings and the use of high tech materials and solar shading designs. The bad news is that this will increase the demand for artificial light."

Gareth also notes one of the ways businesses are fighting back against the recession and the impact it is having on the office environment:

"Occupancy rates have increased so that, on average, each office worker now occupies only 8-13 metres² - down from 12-17 metres². Following on from this there is greater demand for what Nick Pennell a director of the board of management at BCO calls "open plan interaction space". No longer is there a demand for cellular space - it's now for open plan."

This is coupled with much greater use of IT than ever before. The paperless office is no longer a dream but a reality. But the reality is that more efficient, flexible working often requires more energy. Think of the traditional image of traders with several computer screens in front of each of them. The challenge now will be to drive down the energy consumption of office machinery.

There is, therefore a dichotomy between cutting emissions and maximising efficiency. The challenge will be to design buildings that are congenial and efficient to work in and energy efficient. Can this be done? Only time will tell, but in Yorkshire we are well aware that you don't get owt for nowt!

The wind powered pc anyone?

For further information contact Gareth Owen by email: garethowen@keeblehawson.co.uk or direct telephone: 0114 2906255.

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