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CBRE says the life sciences sector leads the full re-opening of workspace post pandemic

As Future Cities Forum prepares for its new 'Science Cities' event this October in Cambridge, it has been interesting to read that the global real estate adviser, CBRE, reports a 70% full re-opening of offices in the life sciences sector.

The UK's over-heating science cities are demanding more space coupled with appropriate housing provision for their employees as the government drives up the accent on innovation as a global attractor.

'While smaller businesses will lead the return to the office and with smart building systems and sensors a pre-requisite in design, the study highlights differences by sector, with over 70% of life sciences companies reporting full reopening of offices, partly reflecting the difficulty of working from home in this sector. Banking & finance (57%) and technology, media & telecoms (TMT) (46%) are reopening at a more deliberate pace.

'Offices will repopulate over the remainder of the year, led by small companies - those with less than 100 employees' according to the EMEA Occupier Survey of 130 companies from global real estate adviser CBRE.

'Over 80% of small companies report all locations open ...this compares with only a third of the largest companies. although a majority of them have opened more than half of their sites, it states.

'Companies are evenly balanced, the study suggests, in their expectations for portfolio size, with a third expecting to expand the amount of space they occupy over the next three years - and businesses that have between 11- 50% of their portfolio in flex space, expect to see that percentage double over the next two years.'

Recently Future Cities Forum interviewed leading law firm DLA Piper which is investing and developing a large office building for its employees in Leeds city centre, next to the new headquarters of Channel Four. Care has been taken to provide wellness facilities as just one feature to encourage employees to return from home-working.

CBRE's survey bears this trend out:

'When looking more broadly at factors that influence building selection, three factors dominate :flexibility, wellness and sustainability, especially air quality according to the report, which specifies that 40% of companies highlight sustainable design as a key factor on par with those that value technology integration and 54% cite indoor air quality.

Features that may have been eroded during lockdowns are clearly top of mind, principally collaboration, engagement and fostering a strong corporate culture. The main implications for the workplace are enhancing or increasing collaborative areas (36%), piloting new workplace strategies in select locations (33%) and revisiting design standards (22%)

Companies recognise that there are also technology needs associated with anticipated changes in workstyle. Enhanced video conferencing is by far the most popular (67%) with smart building systems and sensors (31%) and air quality sensors (25%) also attracting significant interest.

Chapman Taylor Director, Gavin King told Future Cities Forum that his clients are looking at issues that affect mental health and wellbeing such as acoustics and air quality, but also post pandemic how offices can cut down on the spread of germs, including potential new forms of virus that might emerge. He added:

'Our job as designers is to ensure that people don't have to battle the workspace - you do not want to put anything into an office that prevents workers from doing their jobs well. It is all about empowerment and encouraging behavioural change...I hate the concept of 'hot-desking', I would rather have 'not-desking', so people can move around more freely.'

Future Cities Forum has also been carrying out research into the larger environment that employees now demand with access to after-work retail and entertainment and a pride in the street scape that their offices sit in. The greening of Regent Street, London by the Crown Estate, has been an important example of this but Westminster City Council's Elad Eisenstein warned that unless there is significant return of workers to offices in central London, there will be insufficient spending to support a vibrant night economy for the Capital.


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