Change in spec will help meet net zero targets, says body

Office builders should allocate more space-per-person to accommodate a new world of work post-pandemic, the British Council for Offices (BCO) has recommended. 

The body’s latest research has identified a “sweet spot” of 10-12 sq m per person, which accounts for the rise in people working from home and hot-desking when in the office, as well as ensuring employers meet productivity, wellbeing and carbon targets. 


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The BCO said the pandemic had accelerated trends toward collaborative workspaces

The UK currently has some of the highest office densities in the world – estimated at 9.6 sq m per desk in 2018. 

BCO members surveys said less densely populated offices would reduce the requirements for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, thereby reducing embodied and operational carbon. 

Neil Pennell, chair of the BCO technical affairs committee, said making sure workplaces are designed efficiently was key to helping the UK meet net zero ambitions. 

“Our latest report finds that updating the allocated space per person, and optimising office facilities, is one way to make our workspaces more sustainable, whilst also supporting wellbeing and productivity,” he said. 

The BCO’s report on office densities said traditional space-per-desk metrics had been made obsolete by the pandemic and the climate crisis. 

It said common workplace issues, such as overcrowding and noise pollution, would be alleviated by the new space recommendations and suggested designers, owners and occupiers plan workspaces for fluctuating occupancy levels, with contingency for mid-week peaks. 

It also said office occupancy had shifted from single desk use to more collaborative working, with increased demand for amenity and breakout space.