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Wise counsel

The British Council for Offices believes the pandemic has accelerated evolving trends in office design, such as wellbeing and sustainability. Alexi Marmot, Professor Emerita of Facility and Environment Management at UCL and a BCO Research Committee member explains how

In the two long years since the COVID-19 outbreak we’ve been bombarded with conflicting opinions on the role of the office post-pandemic and the repercussions for the workplace of hybrid working. Throughout this period the British Council for Offices (BCO)(i) has produced a range of useful reports directed at FMs, workplace managers and designers who crave clear, evidence-based guidance.

The BCO engages a number of committees made up of BCO members from all aspects of the commercial property industry to conduct this research, alongside its other areas of interest that include the different regions of the country, running an awards programme and promoting the next generation of workplace experts.

While some of its most recent research focuses on COVID-related issues, including the future of the office in the post-pandemic work environment and COVID-related design changes to office buildings, other important topics such as sustainability and technology also feature.

Explains Alexi Marmot, Professor Emerita of Facility and Environment Management at UCL and a BCO Research Committee(ii)member: “The BCO has produced many excellent reports on office workplace changes, specification, sustainability and so on that are widely read. These include reports on future transport and its implications for office demand and design and research into space on demand/coworking spaces(iii). Others that are relevant to the question of knowing what’s actually happening in a building to guide FM services include the topic of wearables in the workplace, while an extensive review of health in offices is covered in Wellness Matters.”

Professor Marmot is an architect and urban planner who combines her research and teaching with professional expertise to offer evidence based consultative design at AMA (Alexi Marmot Associates). She’s worked across continents, from her native Australia, to the US and the UK, which she feels, allows her to sit between three cultures: “In much the same way as utilising both an academic and practice-based background can help create a broader understanding of the purpose of the workplace.”

The BCO Research Committee meets on a quarterly basis, with the purpose of providing a strategic overview of the BCO’s research agenda and advise on any topics suitable for research.

Explains Marmot: “Our BCO members seek knowledge and a lot of what they’re seeking is practical knowledge about workplace and office specification: what is changing, what is new, the latest thinking on sustainability and workplace health. They want solid information to guide their own work. We also ask what our BCO members wants us to explore for the future. The main area that they are interested in now is how best they can meet sustainability goals.

“We already know that the built environment is responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions, accounting for around 40 per cent of emissions. At least another 20 per cent of emissions are incurred for transportation between buildings, so whatever we do in looking ahead we need to put the environment and sustainable thinking at the forefront.”

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