Building for the future of work
BCO NextGen award winner says move towards healthy office space is set to continue.
GENERATIONS Y and Z have new demands about employment. They’re less obsessed with financial gain, more concerned with fulfilment and more eco-conscious.
They’re also looking for significantly more from their office space than a desk, computer and a coffee machine in the corner and – increasingly – they are getting it.
Emma MacLeod, associate director at Hurley Palmer Flatt believes we live in a world that requires a more holistic approach to the design of office buildings with working lives shifting to more flexible arrangements that mirror an increasing aspiration for a better work-life balance.
MacLeod was named Rising Star of Scotland at the third annual British Council for Offices (BCO) NextGen Awards last November, part of the BCO’S Nextgen programme, which sets out to mentor and encourage the next generation of professionals to become future leaders in the industry while providing a platform for new talent to share ideas.
With a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Strathclyde she began summer placements with ATCO Consulting which was acquired by Hurley Palmer Flatt and was mentored by the firm’s Scottish regional director Mark Arthur, whose continuing input she still describes as “inspirational”.
Recently working on projects ranging from The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA), Spa and Leisure at Portavadie on Loch Fyne and a new office development in Edinburgh, she attended the BCO conference in Berlin last year with two colleagues to deliver a presentation on Smart Buildings which, she says, aligns with a new division within the company to support R&D in that area.
“User-centric design is fundamental to the built environment,” she says. “Historically people were only concerned with the functionality of the building; now there is much more focus on the user.”
The interest in achieving designs that promote wellbeing as well as agile working fits well with the Smart technology that allows the monitoring of the conditions of buildings and much more informed decisions to be made.
This, she says, closes the performance gap that often exists between what was designed and what is ultimately handed over. People often accept the buildings they are given, she says, without appreciating that they might not be performing to their potential. “With the technology now available to us this is improving.”
She describes office buildings not merely as workplaces, but communities.
“We are fortunate to live in a society that recognises equal rights and opportunities but probably still has some way to go to reach its final destination. Incorporating this into our buildings is just one of the many steps towards this.”
Our working lives, she argues, are shifting towards much more flexible arrangements, with people increasingly pushing the boundaries of the nine to five “norm”.
“This change needs to be reflected in our buildings to facilitate alternative working arrangements and promote equality and diversity in our workplace.”
A laudable ethos – but are developers buying into it? “Some are obviously asking what the benefits are to them and why they should be adopting this type of technology,” she says.
“At the moment there is no legislation pushing you towards this approach; it depends on you seeing the advantages.
“For developers it will mean that a better quality building is handed over to the end user and an involvement throughout the project with digital engineering and 3D modelling meaning a collaborative approach.”
The 3D modelling live model, she adds, means the structural engineer, architect and services engineer can all feed into the design addressing issues early and saving time on site.
There are, she says, various virtual reality software and modelling programmes, such as VU City, which allow the team to view the design as they work. And, importantly, to establish how competitive a building it is within the client’s sector.
“If you are marketing a Smart enabled building it gives you a definite edge over others – with heating and lighting integrated and communicating with each other in order to be more energyefficient and improving the occupant’s comfort levels.”
For developers it will mean that a better quality building is handed over to the user.