BCO Conference

Ronnie Graham discusses the highlights of the 2017 BCO conference, which took place in London.

This year we were back in the UK for the annual BCO Conference, appropriately named London refocused – suggesting an opportunity to shape our destiny and to transform following the significant political changes since last year’s conference in Amsterdam.

For Ryder, our Alliance partners and some key clients, the conference started with great food, drink and company at Jean Nouvel’s One New Change. The centre was an obvious choice given the close proximity to the conference venue and one that delivered magnificent views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the London skyline.

BCO Conference 2017
BCO Conference 2017
BCO Conference 2017
BCO Conference 2017

Thankfully, the sun came out for the building tours on Thursday involving a pleasant walk through Clerkenwell, via the Turnbull building for a little homework (brickwork detailing precedent) before the first building visit of the day, AHMM’s White Collar Factory.

The building successfully tucks itself into a tight site adjacent to Silicon roundabout and responds to the growing desire for high ceilings, exposed soffits, smart servicing, openable windows and adaptable office space. Credit to Derwent London for realising the potential return on investment associated with the rooftop amenities, which offer collaborative breakout space, a rooftop running track, good coffee and fantastic views across the city…

After a tour of The Bower (AHMM), it was onto C Space by Buckley Gray Yeoman, a fantastic remodelling of a former carpet factory. The stylish offices celebrate the building’s former industrial heritage and reconnect the adjacent streets through careful public realm design. The tour finished at Alphabeta by Studio RHE, with a cycle ramp leading from its listed façade at street level to the basement cycle storage with a resident service centre. The building offices are grouped around a central atrium with each office having a shop window into the atrium. Some choose to showcase their people, others choose their products – regardless, this was an impressive redevelopment project for creative media and tech industries.

Lord Foster’s opening speech for the plenary sessions held the room in silence for an hour, providing us with a full retrospective of his career, spanning over 40 years. The key areas of focus were the seminal office developments from Willis Faber & Dumas in Ipswich, the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank and the new Apple HQ in California with their innovative testing of façades to ensure technical efficiency and aesthetic beauty. The common theme was the requirement for offices to engage with their users, whilst having a social focus and utilising technological advancements in materials and systems to respond to challenges presented by energy and sustainability.

The remainder of the plenary sessions were delivered by a variety of economists, developers, funders and workplace consultants. The overall message was clear – there is no magic formula for a successful office development. Each project is different and needs to understand the user requirements to provide flexibility and choice. As the millennial workforce increases, the market will need to respond and view office design and service as the hospitality sector does. In the age of big data, we should measure building and occupier performance and use it effectively in our designs.

Following the conference, Ryder’s attention is now focused towards the release of our BCO research paper, the official title of which is ‘Adaptive Reuse and the Contemporary Office’. In addition, we plan to enter the BCO NextGen competition – the office of 2035: what it will look like, and how it will support the way we will work. And of course … we’re looking forward to next year’s conference in Berlin already.

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