Death of the office a ‘dangerous myth’

Copyright: David Lawson – appeared Property Week Feb 1998

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The death sentence passed on traditional office blocks by proponents of new working techniques is a 'dangerous myth', says one of the UK's leading space planners.  Downsizing, outsourcing, homeworking and high technology will  not have a revolutionary  impact on most buildings in the near future, says David King, managing director of Interior, which has revived more than 12m sq ft over the last five years.

  'This taught me that many older buildings will cope perfectly well because most occupiers make relatively light demand on services,' he told a packed London conference organised by the British Council for Offices to discuss the 21st century office.  'For most occupiers, radical buildings are irrelevant,' he added, a cry echoed by several members of an audience which had  spent most of the day being lectured about futuristic  blocks in Stockley Park, Bedfont Lakes and the City.

  He defended the 'thin' building, pointing out that new working methods would  be easily handled by the traditional 13metre depth block rather than the barns required by a few banks.  Another myth was  that new systems working methods such as hot-desking and teleworking would cut space needs. 'Demand could actually increase as environmental standards rise,' said King.

  But he called for the recently created BCO office specifications to be updated because space would be used more intensively, requiring extra lifts, toilets and other services. Buildings could be changed while still occupied. 'We have just done this for GRE while 900 people continued working,' said King.

  Investors would also have to adjust, moving from a 'janitorial' stance to more of an 'hotel' service, where they provided all the services rather than leaving this to tenants.