Conference delegates say industry must consult today’s teenagers to work out impact of social media

Senior industry figures called for a major reassessment of office design at last week’s British Council of Offices (BCO) conference in Geneva in the light of growth in mobile and social media technology.

Delegates at the three-day conference said the changes were potentially so fundamental that developers needed to start talking to teenagers and new graduates now to find out what their expectations of work environments will be.

The discussion came as the latest figures continued to provide evidence of growth in the commercial property market in the capital, with agency King Sturge reporting that named occupiers have requested 7.7 million ft2 of office space in the city alone.

Ken Shuttleworth, founder of Make, said offices of the future will need to be designed with the focus shifting to interiors. “Buildings will need to become simpler on the outside but with more functional interiors to suit a more mobile work force,” he said. He also said interiors will need more open space, fewer desks, break-out areas and wifi connections.

But delegates said that to work out exactly how the offices of the future might work, we would need guidance from the next generation of occupiers.

Dr Chris Luebkeman, from Ove Arup and Partners, pointed out how important young people’s opinions are in terms of future commercial design.

“This is a generation that has never known anything other than computers and technology,” he said. “Their perceptions of ’worktime’ and ’workplace’ mean we need to ask ourselves what they think is normal.”

Albert Williamson-Taylor, from Adams Kara Taylor, said: “We should be asking people our children’s age these questions. They’re the ones who know what they want. And they know how to use the technology that we don’t.”

London office construction is up 137% to 6.4 million ft2 compared with six months ago, with 25 schemes under construction, according to the Drivers Jonas Deloitte. This week’s report from King Sturge found that the number of tenancy deals slipped in the first quarter of 2011, but that demand was continuing to rise. It said: “This decrease is [likely to be] a temporary occurrence as there is a wall of existing named requirements, with over 7.7 million ft2 in the City alone.

“The long term trend is also positive, with the volume of floor-space transacted in the 12 months to March 2011 - 15% higher than the long-term annual average.”


Schemes under construction such as the Cheesegrater mark a revival of the office market in the City