A new era and decade herald fresh opportunities, but environmental impact must continue to be at the top of the industry’s agenda

It is a new year, a new decade, we are out of the EU and dry January is over, at last. There are so many issues to be considered, I thought that I would start the new roaring twenties with a glimpse of the horizon.

Jack pringle bw 2017

First and most important are climate change and biodiversity. It seems that everybody, except President Trump, has accepted we are cooking the planet and must stop if we want a decent place for us and other life to live. 

Only 3% of animals are wild – that is truly shocking

On biodiversity, one estimate I have seen has it that 97% of animal life on Earth, by weight, is either human or domesticated animals. So only 3% of animals are wild – that is truly shocking.

COP26, the UN climate change conference held in Glasgow next November, looks set to be a major milestone. It is already creating a political storm. The SNP is complaining it has been frozen out of organising the event and appears to have retaliated by booking out some major venues. Boris Johnson has sacked his conference organiser Claire O’Neill but cannot persuade David Cameron or William Hague to fill her shoes. 

More fundamentally, the stakes are being raised. Johnson says he will ban all internal combustion cars, including hybrids, from sale after 2035 in the UK. Let’s hope the grid is decarbonised and beefed up to take the load by then – and we have a few more charging points that work. 


Source: Shutterstock

The previous climate change conference, COP25, was held in Madrid in December

Microsoft has announced that it is not only going carbon zero, but carbon negative to claw back all the carbon it has emitted since it started in business. Our clients can see what is coming down the road whether they like it or not, and all want to know how they can operate in today’s environment, so we have drafted a Route to Carbon Zero document for them. COP26 is a massive opportunity for the UK to show real leadership and get in place a new worldwide agreement that can get us back on track to control climate change.

The mood seems to be: for good or evil, let’s make the best of it

Brexit is next. We have finally exited the EU and are in “transition” towards either a Canada-style deal with the EU or an Australian one – also known as World Trade Organization rules with tweaks. The mood, typified by even Tony Blair, seems to be: for good or evil, let’s make the best of it. 

Car production and sales may be down, but Johnson will throw borrowed money at infrastructure, such as the out-of-control £100bn HS2 project, and the North, to keep faith with his new voters and ensure a second term. There is a lot to play for running up to 31 December this year, our true Brexit date, but, despite his flaws, Johnson, aided and abetted by Dominic Cummings, has proved to be a better negotiator than Theresa May.

Meanwhile, London is booming as indecision is over. Estate agents are run off their feet by the most house buyer interest for the past 15 years and a one-month price jump of 2.1%.

This avoids the ridiculous time it takes to get planning permission for new projects

Corporately, it is a sellers’ market as developers have been extremely cautious over the past three years, but business has continued to grow. So, the big technology players are in the market, along with a slew of substantial law firms looking for offices. Large good-quality space is expected to run out by the end of the year, meaning firms are looking well ahead and pre-letting space in yet-to-be-built projects – often six or seven years ahead. 

If I were a developer, I would be looking at the quickest way to bring new space to the market, which has to be refurbishing good existing stock, as this avoids the ridiculous time it takes to get planning permission for new projects – but that is a whole other article.

As for the day job at Perkins and Will, 2019 was a good year, but 2020 looks like a great one. In London, we have assembled our three studios under one roof: PW, Portland and our new sister company Penoyre & Prasad. In our own Brexit-defying move, we have opened in Dublin, which is very exciting. We have enjoyed working there for some time and with the Irish capital being in the EU and having GDP growth of more than 7%, it makes great sense to open an office there.

It is no secret that I’ve been an ardent Remainer, but I am also of the view that if you cannot control the cards you are dealt, you can control how you play them.

Jack Pringle is principal and EMEA regional director at Perkins+Will