After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown.

Basil Demeroutis

Basil Demeroutis

Managing partner, FORE Partnership

Last year, science again demonstrated its remarkable ability to find solutions to big, global problems. A truly positive result of the pandemic would be a reanimation of science in the public’s imagination. In science lies the solutions to the even greater challenge the world faces: the climate emergency.

But, unlike Covid-19, there is no vaccine that will help inoculate us from this crisis. It requires collective action on a global scale. Those of us in this industry have a particularly important role to play – we must work to remove carbon emissions from every part of our activity. From our own business operations to every level of the supply chain, we must accelerate the transition to zero carbon.

So that is my hope. That we don’t falter, don’t waiver. That we seize on the success in beating Covid and that inspires the bold, collective, science-based action we need to beat the climate crisis.

I also hope that we support a just transition. Changing business models and disrupting our urban systems can negatively impact some lives as much as it can help others, often hitting hardest those already at risk.

At FORE, as we work to deliver on our target to become zero-carbon by 2025, we will also be working hard to find ways to ensure that the communities where we work are not left behind, and that instead they thrive and prosper from the opportunities ahead.

Simon Perkins, CEO of McKay

Simon Perkins

Chief executive, McKay Securities

The rhythm of life has been severely interrupted by Covid-19 and my hope is that 2021 sees this re-established as quickly as possible. This is particularly important for the younger generation, leaving education, looking for work and trying to progress careers while the economy continues to suffer.

This cohort needs stability, direction, interaction and optimism to fight off the mental challenges of working in a vacuum rather than with work colleagues in a workplace environment. Offices and workplaces generally can be made Covid compliant, and central to my hope for 2021 is that government policy is led by the right science and the essential need to support our economy.

My expectation is that the lack of capacity in the overworked and hopelessly underfunded NHS will result in political inertia, restricting a more expansive policy and delaying recovery. In the absence of a quick fix for the NHS, business leadership needs to take the initiative to encourage a return to more normal working practices. The property industry is ideally placed to play a part in this, demonstrating that it is possible to work safely together.

Giulia Robba

Giulia Robba

Architect, Farrells

I hope to see more stability and positivity return to the built environment. The pandemic has presented many unprecedented challenges but it has opened our eyes to a new way of working and demonstrated how flexible working patterns can be.

I expect the emerging trends of adaptability and flexibility to continue but with more of a focus on the workplace. Working from home has highlighted the inequality in the facilities people have, such as access to the same technological infrastructure or space required to work, which has emphasised the need for an external workspace.

To enable this, it is vital that we revisit the concept of the office. In 2021, we will see more emphasis on the design of an office that is shaped by its users to help accommodate their needs and create a safe place that people feel comfortable to return to.

We are already seeing evidence of this where some companies are investing in research and equipment to create a blueprint for maintaining safe conditions.

This will become an industry-wide standard and it’s something that I will continue to focus on as we look to adapt to these new ways of working and build back better.

Darren Richards

Darren Richards

Head of real estate, British Land

Covid has accelerated trends towards working from home but the office has a key role to play. We think that campuses where we can control the environment and offer core space and flexibility will be increasingly attractive to occupiers.

Despite the short-term challenges, we expect to see some interesting activity in the occupational market, which will start to reveal how occupiers will respond to this, while activity in the office investment market continues to indicate the attractiveness of good-quality income streams and London.

In retail, we all know the market continues to be tough. However, we are seeing good signs in the investment and occupational markets that the out-of-town subsector may stabilise sooner. We will see more CVAs and retailer distress, but there are some that already look like they will come through this stronger.

Finally, last year there was a lot of commentary on real estate owners. My main hope for this year is that there is more balance and recognition of the role we play, not just as space providers but also as part of the solution to regenerate our towns and cities.

Continue to part six here

Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope