Twenty years ago, we launched the British Council for Offices (BCO) Guide to Specification.
It was born out of a need to avoid over-specification and waste, as the perceived requirements for new office space were driven higher and higher to attract occupiers. Since then, the BCO Guide has become the accepted industry standard at home and abroad.
The 2014 guide, available now, focuses on the challenge of delivering buildings in an accelerating recovery without the benefit of recession-driven cost deflation or, since asset values are already very high, the safety net of capital growth.
So where should the sector focus its efforts in order to deliver value in a changing world? Delivering outstanding performance at an affordable cost is the perennial challenge for the office industry. With expectations of performance and value ever increasing, the sector must find new ways of delivering more for less.
We need to challenge ourselves if we are to rise to the demands of the changing patterns of occupancy and businesses configuring their buildings in increasingly diverse ways to support employees and minimise costs.
The technological, sociological and environmental advances we have seen since the last two guides are, in many cases, making traditional approaches to providing offices redundant.
People, productivity and wellbeing are some of the principal drivers in the value proposition of creating office spaces, it is being increasingly acknowledged. There is growing evidence that good office space creates a virtuous circle: a good working environment, appropriate to the business, fosters a happy workforce, happy staff are more productive and greater productivity leads to a better return on the bottom line.
But there is no one size fits all solution, which is where the guide moves the agenda forward. For many, the guide has become a de facto ‘compliance checklist’ — but it is not a substitute for proper analysis. The guide offers evidence-based information from experts across the industry on what the critical issues are and how the most appropriate solution may be assessed and selected: informed choices, not prescription.
An excellent building will deliver value to all stakeholders: acceptable costs to the occupier; the expected return to the investor and project team; and an asset to the wider community. The speed of change in offices means that everyone must remain forward-looking and adaptable to achieve this.
Richard Kauntze is chief executive of the British Council of Offices.