Matt Flood (left), associate director at DTZ, has chaired the London Committee for nearly one year. Ben Newton (centre), senior associate at Eversheds, and Paul Norbury (right), director at 5plus architects have taken on the role of Chairman in the Midlands and Northern Region (respectively) in the last six months.
When did you first get involved in the BCO and what were your initial impressions?
Paul: I first became aware of the BCO about 8 years ago when I was working on the large RBS fit outs in Manchester. My first involvement was simply attending the technical tours which I suspect is most people’s only experience of the BCO?
Ben: My first involvement was at the inception of the Midlands NextGen Committee in 2009. It has proved to be an an exciting opportunity for the next generation of leaders in the office sector to share ideas, make contacts and learn from each other – much more than just a networking group.
Matt: I joined the London committee in 2010 and immediately realised it was a fantastic opportunity to meet a cross-section of the industry at a diverse range of events.
Can you sum up in three words the benefits of this group?
Ben: Expanding knowledge and contacts.
Matt: Networking, knowledge and experience.
Paul: My three words are “interesting”, “talented” and “ideas”...Since I joined the inaugural Northern Committee in 2010 I have spent time with some interesting and talented people on the committee. They always have a broad range of ideas so it’s always good when we meet up.
Ben & Paul, you have recently stepped up to the role of Chairman in your regions, what do you hope to achieve during your time in post?
Ben: I want to build on the good work of the Midlands Next Gen Committee to-date and continue to run thought provoking, interesting and well attended events that engage the entirety of the BCO membership in the Midlands (and hopefully expand it).
Paul: Our targets are to be more active and increase membership. The two go hand in hand though really – there needs to be more activity to convince people to join! Our inaugural year was focussed on establishing ourselves as a committee, running a couple of seminars and working towards the NextGen event at the BCO Conference in Manchester this year. Now we are divulging a little bit and empowering our committee members who are based in Newcastle and Leeds so we spread the efforts and events around the various cities within this region. We have a mini-series of building visits coming up which is looking at industrial buildings that have been reworked into workplaces. We’ve just hosted The Toffee Factory in Newcastle, we will next move to Leeds and then, finally, Manchester.
Matt, after being in post for over six months, what has been your highlight to date and what are you looking forward to?
My highlight has to be the NextGen session at the conference in Manchester as it was a combined effort from the NextGen community across the country. Moving forward, I am hoping to successfully establish an initiative between the NextGen and Investor committees.
What do you all see as a key challenge for the commercial property industry?
Matt: I would say that the biggest challenge will be sourcing new forms of funding to replace the lack of available debt.
Ben: Due to the funding difficulties in the sector, developers and landlords need to tailor their product to their customers and offer something different to the market in order to enable them to bring new buildings forward and bring older buildings back in to use. This means they have to work more closely with occupiers to create premises that are more client-focussed, adaptable and economically efficient to operate.
Paul: I agree and the key challenge will be the creative refurbishment of existing buildings, including creating “office” space out of non-office buildings. Without looking more creatively at building design, the industry will just keep recreating office buildings that have the same old raised floor / carpet / cooling / ceiling solution. Everything will look the same. This isn’t the office of the future, nor does it respond to changing markets and user demands.
The motto for NextGen is “Learning from the past, looking to the future”, what do you think the key lessons are?
Paul: The typical market leading offices of the last 15 or so years have served their occupants well, and provided a sound basis for the BCO! There is a lot of good practice we can learn from but we’re interested in the “new directions of office design”. Sustainable, flexible, inspiring and fun work spaces are important, which embrace current trends in technology.
Who/what has most inspired you in the Commercial Property Sector?
Matt: John Forrester.
Ben: Seeing and being involved in the transformation of Birmingham in the 10 years that I have lived in the city.
Paul: Some of the high profile City of London office buildings are hard to beat, particularly Lloyd’s of London. That building is certainly creative and didn’t replicate the standard office design of the 80’s!
What couldn’t you live without in your daily routine?
Ben: My Kindle.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Ben: My Norwich City season ticket. Living 160 miles from the ground I don’t get to many games so it’s arguably not great value for money (so my wife says)!
Matt: Tottenham Hotspur for me.
Paul: Haribos! We have a “chub cupboard” in the office, which is home to pots of tea and coffee, biscuits, cakes and sweets. The really sour, sugar covered Haribos are a personal favourite!