27 Jul 2021

BCO NextGen Digbeth Walking Tour and Masterplan with Oval Real Estate

On Wednesday 21st July the British Council for Offices NextGen committee team hosted a talk and tour with Oval Real Estate around one of Birmingham’s most vibrant districts, Digbeth.
Jo Salmon, Head of Estates and Steve Sanders, Head of Development kindly explained Oval Real Estate’s ongoing active management, including the reactivation of a number of properties along Floodgate Street and The Bond, which recently secured GBSLEP funding to support the development of a dedicated Creative Content Hub. The Oval team also provided insight behind the exciting plans for the long term investment and regeneration in Digbeth, following the successful planning approval by members of the Birmingham City Council Planning Committee in May this year.

The approved plans provide a framework and long term vision for 42 acres of Digbeth centred round the iconic Custard Factory, which is owned by Oval. The framework, which will see the careful and gradual regeneration of Digbeth over the next 10 – 15 years, complements Oval’s ongoing investment in Digbeth, which has included physical improvements to the area, the introduction of new independent companies and plans for a major new creative content hub at The Bond.

The framework will provide up to 2.2 million square feet of commercial space and 1,850 homes alongside shops, restaurants, cafés and additional leisure facilities. This will support the creation of over 16,400 jobs and provide a substantial boost to the local Birmingham and wider West Midlands economy.

The plans will also improve public realm, pedestrian and cycle movement in the area, expose the River Rea, celebrate the Grand Union Canal and reactivate viaduct arches. The approval also means that plans can now be put in place to bring forward the much anticipated Viaduct Park, which will see the conversion of Duddeston Viaduct into accessible open space with views over the city centre.

Since Oval acquired the Custard Factory and other Digbeth buildings in 2017, they have been working with a wide range of stakeholders to develop the framework to understand what makes the area so special. Oval have worked in close collaboration with a team of designers, led by master planners, architects and landscape architects Studio Egret West and local practices Glenn Howells Architects and Bryant Priest Newman, alongside planning consultancy Turley to develop the plans.

In addition to the ongoing reactivation works the first phase of the framework will see the delivery of Wild Works, Custard Factory Living and the Custard Factory Extension, collectively providing new commercial office space, an element of ground floor retail and new homes. The exceptional design of the first phase is the high standard Oval will aim for in all future phases.

After a brief introduction to the scheme, delegates were provided with a guided tour of the estate, where Oval identified key elements of the reactivation works and framework ambitions.

Alex Slatter, chair of BCO NextGen said of the event: "Thank you again to the Oval Real Estates team for hosting and touring our BCO members around Digbeth. It was a privilege walking and talking through the masterplan with the team and allowed members to get a real sense of how Oval are re-imagining and re-activating the streets of Digbeth to build a vibrant and exciting place to live and work. A warm welcome back to our members with our first in-person event of the year, kick starting our exciting programme of events for the rest of the year!"

Joe Huddleston, BCO committee adds ‘What a fantastic afternoon and turn out; warm and sunny with a few welcome refreshments to help cool off afterward. We’re delighted so many members could join us. Don’t forget that all members of the BCO NextGen can join our current mentorship programme for free, it's up and running now. Do get in touch to join in with this great initiative, build your business skills and nurture your career with our industry leaders.

View the full gallery here.
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15 Jul 2021

Announcement of the result of the board elections 2021

Chief Executive, Richard Kauntze said: "One of the many consequences of the coronavirus pandemic was that last year there were no elections to the Board of Management. Those members of the Board whose terms would have expired in July 2020 very kindly agreed to remain on the Board for a further year and we have, therefore, something of a bumper crop of categories where vacancies arose this year."  Those categories were:

· Architecture/Design/Town Planning

· Construction Consultants

· Contractors

· Legal

· Occupier

· Owners/Investors/Developers

· Research

In four of those categories (Construction Consultants, Legal, Occupier and Research) the number of candidates did not exceed the number of vacancies and, therefore the following members are elected to the Board unopposed:

Construction Consultants

Mike Burton (AECOM)


Helen Garthwaite (Wedlake Bell) – re-elected

Michelle Marwood (Norton Rose Fulbright) – re-elected


Nathalie Baxter (Home Group)

Chris Early (Telefónica UK)

Andy McBain (NatWest Group)


Dr Asif Din (Perkins&Will)

"All of these candidates are therefore elected to the Board of Management for a three-year term at today’s AGM, and the BCO’s sincere congratulations to one and all.

In the remaining three categories (Architecture/Design/Town Planning, Contractors and Owners/Investors/Developers) the number of candidates exceeded the number of vacancies and, therefore, a ballot was held. It is, of course, an inevitable consequence of any ballot that not everyone can be a winner, and the BCO is extremely grateful to everyone who very kindly put themselves forward and offers its commiserations to those who were not successful this time."

The winners in those three categories were:

Architecture/Design/Town Planning

Jason Balls (EPR Architects) – re-elected

Racheal Cadey (Edge) – re-elected


Clare Ashmore (Parkeray) – re-elected

Alex Soltynski (21 Construction)


Jon Allgood (The Crown Estate) – re-elected

Benjamin Lesser (Derwent London) – re-elected

James Pellatt (Great Portland Estates) – re-elected

The BCO offers its sincere congratulations to all of the winners in those categories elected through a ballot and, to all of the candidates – winners and losers – for very kindly putting themselves forward. 

4 May 2021

Multisensory design holds the key to a successful return to the office

By Derek Clements-Croome 

One unintended consequence of the pandemic has been that we have gained a greater appreciation of the important role the environment plays in affecting our state of mind in the places where we work. We are more conscious of how location, screen time and human interaction can impact our productivity and our wellbeing.

Good physical and mental health are central to our happiness and wellbeing. However, amid all the other considerations, this is often forgotten when designing the workplace. After an incredibly difficult year in and out of lockdown, it is more important than ever that we create spaces that workers can flourish in. This was the inspiration behind my latest report for the British Council for Offices, “Designing and Managing Buildings for Health and Wellbeing”.

The paper outlines how sensory design will provide a positive experience on returning to the office. Multisensory design is based on how we perceive the environment around us, and this approach can act as an antidote to help reinvigorate workers and reignite their imagination, leading to an enhanced occupant experience with more creativity. The look and feel of a place is so important.

Recommendations from the report include providing adequate exposure to natural light, views of natural settings and environments, and a range of biophilic interventions, including outside views. The incorporation of these environmental elements softens the boundaries between the office and the outdoors and can have a positive effect on productivity, creativity and even health indicators like heartbeat patterns.

As a welcome reprieve from a lockdown year staring at our living room walls, offices should provide aesthetically pleasing surroundings that provide visual interest, for example through innovative uses of colour and artwork.

Additionally, to minimise intrusive noise in work areas, attention should be paid to office acoustics (particularly in the case of open-plan offices) as well as design features that can moderate noise pollution from outside the building.

We will continue to see the impact of the pandemic even when we return to the office. Companies hoping to promote health and wellbeing should provide employees with a fresh, thermally comfortable environment with effective ventilation, and spatial settings that suit COVID-19 conditions as well as various individual or team working needs. Indoor air quality is now seen as even more vitally important if we are to reduce infection risk, and spaces will need reconfiguring to ensure social distancing rules are followed.

Furthermore, the paper argues for the importance of a company-wide commitment to improved wellness through an appointed health and wellbeing executive; consistent monitoring of workplace conditions; voluntary health and wellbeing focus groups, and collecting data on medical absences and staff turnover rates in order for us to gain a deeper understanding of employee wellbeing.

Over the past year, employees have had to juggle their working commitments with their personal wellbeing, which has been a considerable burden for many. By designing offices with the happiness of employees in mind, we can provide them with a space they are excited to go to, where they can focus on making the most of their talents and collaborating with others.

Download the newly published BCO report here.

Follow Derek on Twitter and LinkedIn.

7 Mar 2021

Navigating Through Unprecedented Times

The last twelve months have been extraordinarily challenging for us all. While we have been unable to bring our members together in person at the flagship events we know our members enjoy, we have worked to continue to offer the maximum possible value to our members in the current virtual world. To illustrate this, since April 2020 we have:

  • Hosted 50+ digital events, including topical panel discussions, research launches and virtual tours
  • Facilitated the opportunity to meet industry peers online and network on digital platforms
  • Hosted 5 Regional Awards events on a virtual platform, which allowed guests to network face-to-face and watch the announcement of the regional winners live on a virtual stage
  • Celebrated the achievements of young professionals in our sector at the Virtual NextGen Awards, an online ceremony, which has since been viewed over 1,000 times on YouTube
  • BCO NextGen brought back it's Design Competition, where entrants were asked to share their vision of the Post Pandemic Office of 2025
  • Published 11 Research Reports and Briefing Notes
  • Set up a CPD certified online learning course, which aims to increase understanding of  best practice in office design, development, and occupation
  • Launched a national mentoring programme, with senior BCO members providing support and guidance to our NextGen members in group or one-to-one online sessions
  • Launched 'The New Normal', a weekly interview series with prominent members of the BCO on the immediate impact of the coronavirus crisis, and what the new normal might look like once it has passed
  • Launched #BCOvoices on LinkedIn, which brings together different BCO members, all sharing their thoughts on how we can work effectively at this time and in the future.


Last year, the BCO recorded a series of interviews called ‘The New Normal’ where Richard Kauntze, the BCO’s Chief Executive, talked to leading figures from across the office sector, as well as a few special guests. The series focused on the immediate impact of Covid-19.
Following on from ‘The New Normal’ comes ‘The Office Briefing’ which will see Richard explore our way out of the pandemic and broader issues through conversations with members, economists, academics and more special guests.
We are delighted that our first guest in this new series of interviews is Co-President, Political Risk Advisory at Teneo - Wolfango (Wolf) Piccoli. Watch it on our YouTube channel now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWnivE0z28o 

22 Feb 2021

The office is now a destination, not a routine. What's a Landlord to do?

By Ken GianniniBoard Director, MCM Architecture

Every week a new survey is published or a statement from a CEO hits the press related to corporate occupier’s desire to adopt a form of hybrid working for the long-term post Covid 19. And as a result, the desire to occupy less space in their central office hub. This is not however the death of the office and the discussion about the future of work and re-purposing the office for collaboration, mentoring, creative work and the cultural glue for organizations is well documented. Organizations' will need offices.

But what about the landlord? Landlords are asking- What do we do now to attract and keep great occupiers, and fill our buildings?

I have an idea that is of its time. A time when the world has started to cooperate, collaborate, and work towards a common purpose. When work, life, values, and priorities are shifting. Employers are seeking to look after their people in a holistic way in and out of the office.

What if landlords came together with their occupier clients to support lifestyles not just workstyles?

The starting point of this idea is for landlords to ask yourself, who is your customer? No, it’s not the CEO or the CRE Director, but the entire workforce that occupy each and every building in your portfolio. Yes, all the portfolio not just those within a single building.

My suggestion is treating your occupiers as Members not Tenants. Members of your exclusive club. Provide those members with perks and benefits.

For example, access to all the shared landlord provided facilities and events in all the portfolio…the co working spaces, the reception breakout spaces, gym, cycle parking, showers, TED talks and events, the concierge services, etc. Across the whole portfolio not just within their own building. Landlords can provide a variety of benefits and facilities, but not have to do it in every building.

On top of that landlords support your club members lifestyle not just work. Tap into the buying power of that community of members by negotiating discounts or benefits with lifestyle products such as Netflix, Just Eat, Spotify, Uber, cinemas, theatre, health clubs, and etc. all accessed via an app that has all the products, services, locations, perks in one place for the members.

Look at the numbers: in the extreme case both LandSec and British Land have about 6-7million ft2 of office space in London alone, each. That equates to a population of occupiers (members) of around 600,000 members each. That is the population of Bristol! One hell of a buying power community. And this idea will work for smaller landlords as well.

The basic membership is free but special services or products are commercialised via service charge. Say a Gold, Silver and Bronze type of membership.

Imagine the win-win; occupiers win as the CEO that does agree which building to lease can see this as a benefit to all their staff. Landlords build brand loyalty and differentiate themselves. And keep their customers within their portfolio for the long term. Dare to imagine, is this the time for that illusive concept of partnering?

Originally published by Ken Giannini as a LinkedIn article on 21/02/2021 as part of the #BCOvoices blog series.

19 Feb 2021

Corporates seeking a return to office-working this year face a new set of employee wellbeing questions

By Jenny Brand, Director at Teneo.

As the third lockdown drags on – past Christmas, past the Beast from the Baltic, past who-knows-what-else in the coming weeks – we clearly have a desire to return to the office when safe. YouGov polling shows that fewer than one in five workers want to only work from home, while businesses gain from the office’s important role in boosting creativity, corporate culture and employee development. Home working will remain, but it will be balanced with time back in the workplace.

However, returning to the office is no simple task – as some of us may have experienced last summer. Having packed our laptops and struggled into some work-appropriate attire, we returned to a workplace much changed from what came before. In came the hand sanitiser and plastic screens. Out went our pre-pandemic way of working, so too employers’ past relationship with their employees’ health.

At the time, these changes may have felt temporary – a bridge between the pandemic’s supposed early peak and it apparently being wrapped up by Christmas. Now we know that change is here to stay.

Covid-19 looks set to be an ongoing part of our lives. The virus is varying and mutating and, sadly, is unlikely to just go away – something evidenced by Health Minister Edward Agar’s comment that the Government is considering annual booster jabs to ward off Covid-19, similar to how we fight flu. For business, both its continued presence and its lasting impact create a range of challenges.

First, employers will need to stay abreast of Government guidelines. Having made strong progress with its vaccine rollout, the Government looks set to encourage offices to reopen this autumn. This means offices will reopen before the Government intends to lift social distancing guidelines, so some measures will stay in place. Plus, in the longer term, variants may require new measures to be introduced. Understanding and implementing these will be no easy task.

What’s more, employers will need also to consider their vaccine and testing policies. Doing so is fraught with potential pitfalls. Understandably, most employers will want to encourage staff to be vaccinated. But what to do with employees reluctant to get the jab? How, while respecting employee privacy, can vaccine uptake be monitored within the workforce? These are not easy questions, and no one answer will work for every business.

And these are just the most immediate and tangible concerns. The pandemic has changed how employees view employers’ responsibility to their health, something which is an important driver of trust. We’re yet to fully see just how Covid-19 has shifted these expectations, so employers must be switched on to this change.

In America, we are seeing the rise of the Corporate Medical Officer, dedicated to staying on top of these challenges. Given all the above, should such a figure be employed? The role is uncommon the UK (for now) but it is an idea that demands consideration.

The reopening of offices will provide clear and vital benefits. Yet it will also present a new and difficult set of challenges for employers, with Board agendas continuing to be weighed down by points around employees’ health. There is much to discuss, and many opportunities to assess. Deciding action, though, will be tough.

Originally published on 19/02/2021 on LinkedIn as part of the #BCOVoices series of expert blogs.

Cleveland Clinic London, which is building a new state-of-the-art hospital to open at 33 Grosvenor Place, Central London in early 2022, and the leading CEO advisory firm Teneo, have collaborated to develop a set of services to support corporates in getting their staff back into the office when government guidance permits. Interested? Get in touch. Follow Jenny Brand on LinkedIn.

15 Feb 2021

BCO Voices: An Occupiers Insight. Why the virtual office will never replace ‘live work’

By Christopher D Richmond MBA MRICS, Senior Head of Real Estate, PwC

Photocred: Ant Rozetsky

A revolution currently evolving suggests that the traditional office environment is soon to be a thing of the past and be replaced by the virtual office where staff work predominately from home. This supposes that offices will be smaller but used more intensively, made possible by the growth of information and communication technology and desk sharing, offering the potential for savings in occupational costs. At the same time, providing an opportunity to design a solution that optimises the infrastructure expected by staff, creates more efficient methods of working and maximises utilisation. Consequently, the way business manages its people’s needs and operates its office space will be transformed.

Some of you may be surprised to learn the above is an extract from my MBA Dissertation entitled ‘Alternative Ways of Working and its Impact on Future Office Accommodation Needs’ written in 1998. I was struck by how similar my research at that time is reminiscent of those discussions we are having today. Back then technology greatly influenced work styles during the 1980’s when we saw PC’s start to emerge on every desk reinforcing the convention at the time that individuals were fixed to workstations. The 1990’s started having a profound impact on working patterns when the Internet began linking together people and business via information networks on a global scale. The emergence of the information age increasingly centred around the concept of a virtual organisation that created a web of workers, capital, and technologies who operated in a flexible and agile way.

Fast track to 2020 and the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) has necessitated home working for most office based staff creating a fundamental social change that places people at the heart of modern business. The virtual working utopia we have been looking for it seems. Well not quite. Many employers are taking the opportunity to reassess their business and workforce needs to redefine their workplace strategy that supports the emergence of hybrid working. This envisages staff time being split between the office and home, or elsewhere, leading to inevitable changes to working behaviours and employment conditions. The consequences of these changes will involve looking beyond flexibility and agility techniques to clearly defining how workplaces will function to meet the essential social human needs. In other words, ensuring the working environment is safe, nurturing, secure, calm and aesthetic as a prerequisite to psychological health, well-being and growth. All of which is essential to encourage and reassure staff returning to the office.

Designing a creative, supportive and engaging workplace where people can work intuitively and interact on a human scale should remain the prime objective. But office experience counts for a lot and whilst the long held belief that it should be seen as a ‘business hotel’ in delivering 5 star service and hospitality still holds true, I believe we are entering a new paradigm with the emergence of the ‘business theatre’. A place of opportunities to enhance human condition and gatherings. Where people become the performers and the office provides the stage for social engagement, self-discovery, expression, education and creativity.

As I sit in my garden office writing this article, I am practicing the very essence of home working utilising technology and information networks that were not invented when I started my career in 1988. But here’s the rub. Lockdown has taken away the place where my career was formed, where my dreams are enacted, relationships forged, and successes shared. After almost a year of restrictions, I miss watching ‘live sport’ and attending ‘live events’ that was once our freedom and liberty. But more than this, I crave daily face-to-face interaction and participating in ‘live work’ in a physical office. It is for these reasons the virtual office will never replace the ecosystem dynamics of a vibrant and engaging live office workplace that encourages and enables us to achieve great things, that lifts our spirits and morale when we are down but more importantly, reminds us that we are social beings and that we thrive when we have human contact.

#BCOvoices is a series of blogs looking at the impact of Covid-19 on the commercial property industry, along with broader topics. If you would be interested in contributing, please contact chane.scallan@bco.org.uk.

Follow Christopher Richmond on LinkedIn here.