Last week, we attended the first ever London BOLD conference with industry leaders from across Europe.
Formally referred to as Bisnow’s Office, Leasing and Development Conference, the event brought together developers, managers, brokers, lenders, suppliers, consultants, agents, investors and many others, in a conversation exploring the current state of the office market. From flexible working to building office empires, here are some of the highlights from Bisnow’s most comprehensive office event of 2019.
The ‘Coworking and Flexible Working’ panel featured our own Nic Pryke alongside Enrico Sanna, CEO of Fora, Olly Olsen, CEO of The Office Group, and James Lowery, Co-Head of Storey. Moderator Natasha Guerra, CEO of Runway East, brought to light recent developments in the flexible working sector, asking the group how WeWork was impacting the current market.
The consensus among the group was that any issues WeWork may be facing were completely unrelated to their business model – one that has positively shaped the face of coworking, and allowed other operators to enter the sector.
“ We’ve delivered a lot of WeWork space, nearly 2 million sq ft of it. 15 years ago, the whole business of serviced offices had a negative ethos around it. The way WeWork hit London has turned that around: now it’s a very valued way of dealing with your property portfolio – that’s something that WeWork’s accelerated ” said Pryke.
The panel touched on topics from industry-specific coworking spaces that are popping up in California, to the fate of coworking suppliers in the event of another economic recession. The resounding attitude was that, given its ability to grow and shrink with the market, coworking space is here to stay.
Connectivity is all about engagement. Whether we’re engaging with our surroundings or engaging with each other, connectivity is what enables interaction. Moderated by Freddie Pritchard-Smith, founder of Savvy, the ‘Why Connectivity?’ panel discussed the importance of connectivity in the property industry.
Speakers included Helen Causer, Senior Project Manager at Argent, Neil Pennell, Head of Design Innovation and Product Solutions at Landsec, Emma Galal, Central support Manager at Google DeepMind and Liam Graham, Founder and Director of Spectrum Infrastructure.
In a world that is perpetually switched-on, the importance of seamless connectivity within spaces is growing. Landlords offering exceptional buildings is a given. Providing great connectivity and community within those buildings is where the property sector has room to grow.
Landlords can easily find out how their clients will want to use their space by asking the simple question, “what are you optimising for?”. Buildings need to cater to client needs, updating as necessary to continue to support those needs in the future, as clients won’t stay in buildings that aren’t being updated and invested in, the panel cautioned.
“Should we be panicking?”
Moderator Robert Wolstenholme, founder of Trilogy Real Estate, posed the panel’s opening question. In short, the answer was yes.
The decisions we make in the next 18 months directly impact whether we have a liveable planet in the near future. The sustainability panel included Bridget Jackson, Chief Sustainability Officer at PWC, Tor Burrows, Director of Placemaking at Grosvenor and Munish Datta, Head of Insights and Membership at UKGBC.
Positive emission-slicing changes are starting to be made – at the recent Climate Action Summit in New York, 87 businesses declared to be net 0 emissions by 2050 at the latest. The sooner real shifts are made, the better, but companies can’t make a large enough impact on their own.
“Sustainability needs to be part of every-day decision making,” said Burrows. Getting leadership involved and educated is a powerful way to initiate company-wide change. Supply charters and client charters are one way to encourage and persuade the sustainable use of buildings, and green lease clauses are a great way for landlords to make an impact.
Jackson implored companies to “set a net 0 emissions strategy and targets,” a practice that will ultimately save money as well as resources.
You’ve probably heard someone say that children are the future. According to the ‘Future of Work’ panel, children are already shaping a very specific part of the future – the workspace.
Moderated by Andrew Talbot, Director of M-Moser Associates, the panel consisted of Ciaran Chaney, Regional Workplace Manager at Slack, Ross Blair, Senior Managing Director at Hines, Richard Morris, UK CEO at IWG and Caroline Pontifex, Director of Workplace Experience at KKS-Savills.
Generation X is beginning to enter the workforce and they’re bringing new modes of communication with them. Chaney even predicted the disappearance of email as Gen X-driven communication takes over. New ways of working will evolve as well, increasingly incorporating artificial intelligence to off-load work and simplify tasks.
Caroline Pontifex, Director of Workplace Experience at KKS-Savills, pointed out that by simply watching the way school-aged children play videogames like Minecraft, it is clear to see their native ability to collaborate very quickly and in real-time with hundreds of other users. That kind of collaboration is what the rising workforce will expect, and that expectation will influence the workplace and its processes.
The discussion came to a close with UK CEO of IWG, Richard Morris, remarking that, “80% of the jobs people will be doing in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.”