With British Summer Time finally here, temperatures edging upwards and restrictions lifting, there is an ever-increasing sense of optimism in the air.

Peter Ferrari

Peter Ferrari

Many of us will have spent more time outside over the past year than ever before. Those who did will have felt the benefit: Anglia Ruskin University research showed that spending time outdoors was linked to higher levels of happiness during lockdown. But while we’ve never valued outdoor space more, our approach to valuing outside space in commercial buildings lags well behind.

The idea that Covid-19 has accelerated existing trends is relevant here: even before the pandemic, people were attaching more importance to health and wellness, including being outside, connecting with nature, taking more exercise and breathing in fresh air. These concepts have received an extra push from lockdown restrictions; recent University of Cumbria research found that 72% of women and 60% of men said they were likely to spend more time in nature in future.

Terraces and proximity to green space have long been attractive qualities in offices and have become more prevalent in the past 10 years, as developers have recognised that sacrificing lettable space in favour of more amenities or better and more attractive communal areas makes commercial sense.

The Future Works, our development with U+I in Slough, offers 8,000 sq ft of private and communal wifi-connected roof terraces.

Shifting role

With many employees now having tried working outdoors for the first time during the pandemic, it is likely that use of convenient, connected outside space will grow, and that demand for such spaces from occupiers will increase.

This will not be limited to outdoor terraces.Developments close to parks or public squares will also benefit.

Use of convenient connected outside space will grow and demand will increase

The office’s role is shifting from providing spaces for people to get on with quiet, desk-based tasks and towards providing inspiring places to create, collaborate and socialise.

As it does so, outdoor areas will become increasingly relevant and sought after.

Yet when it comes to valuing outside space in commercial buildings, there is no formal pricing structure. In places with more reliable weather – such as Italy, Spain and New York – tenants pay a set price per square foot or square metre for private external areas.

Here, while occupiers will pay a rent premium for internal space, this tends to depend on negotiation, reflecting a perhaps outdated view that terraces and balconies are a bonus rather than an integral part of the offer.

The way we work has been changing for some time. As employees and employers look to combine the benefits of a more modern and flexible approach with the collaborative and social elements we have missed by being apart from colleagues, outdoor areas have a greater role to play whatever the weather.

It is time we began to value them accordingly.

Peter Ferrari is chief executive of AshbyCapital