Three ways in which the business case for green building design is moving on

ODD 02The case for sustainable building design used to be based on two straightforward principles. The first was that buildings had to offer up some sustainable features to comply with the ethical standards of their occupiers. The second was that there was some financial benefit. Often these principles went hand in hand, especially when it came to issues such as energy efficiency. They remain the foundations of the idea of green building design and are applicable across a range of building accreditations such as BREEAM as well as standards relating to specific products and policies. Over the past couple of years, however, we have become increasingly aware of other drivers that might make us all re-evaluate how we approach sustainability. These drivers are based on a more sophisticated understanding of green building design and the benefits for all of those involved.

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Takeup of flexible working remains sluggish in UK SMEs claims Microsoft study

flexible working womanIt’s now one year since the UK Government extended the right to request flexible working to nearly all UK permanent employees. Two new surveys have been published to coincide with the anniversary and gauge the effects of the legislation. Both surveys, from EY and Microsoft UK, paint somewhat mixed pictures, with uptake considerably slower than might have been expected. The study by Microsoft, one of the UK’s great champions of flexible working, found that just 22 percent of workers in SMEs have requested flexible working as a direct result of the new legislation. The report also found that over half (55 percent) of British office workers are still required to work from the office during set working hours. A similar proportion (44 percent) claim it is not possible for them to work remotely under any circumstances.

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Settings, silence, serendipity, wellbeing and other lessons from Neocon

WHY_Provocations_05The trick with visits to exhibitions like Neocon, the huge office design event which has just wrapped up in Chicago, is to stay focussed on the wood as much as the trees. So as well as identifying new products, you can also work out the themes pursued by the exhibitors and organisers which are invariably based on the ideas they are currently discussing with their clients. The show becomes a microcosm of what is happening in the outside world. At this year’s Neocon, some of the most readily identifiable themes included the dissipation of the workplace, the creation of work settings, privacy, ergonomics, wellbeing and serendipity. With the possible exception of the age old problem of ergonomics, these all relate to our changing relationship with work and workplaces, not least how we can work from anywhere and what this means both functionally and aesthetically.

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Is the environment now a non-issue for building occupiers and managers?

SustainabilityThis week, I am taking part in a series of debates in London and Manchester. The discussions, to be held with Rob Kirkbride of the US workplace design trade journal Monday Morning Quarterback, will focus on workplace trends in North America and Europe, based on the issues that dominated the recent Neocon show in Chicago. This in turn is based on the premise that what suppliers talk about when they present their products in public reflects what their clients are saying to them. However, one subject we won’t be covering in any detail is the environment, because nobody was talking about it very much at Neocon. Indeed nobody seems to talk about it very much at exhibitions anywhere these days. While few would deny that sustainability is an important subject, could it be that it is now something of a non-issue for building occupiers and their suppliers?

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Number of mobile workers in US will exceed 105 million by 2020

US mobile workforce will surpass 105 million by 2020 Mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3 percent) of the US workforce by 2020, thanks to the increasing affordability of smartphones and tablets and  growing acceptance of corporate Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes. According to a new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC), the US mobile worker population will grow at a steady rate over the next five years, increasing from 96.2 million in 2015 to 105.4 million in 2020. Innovations in technology such as biometric readers, wearables, voice control, near-field communications (NFC), and augmented reality are already increasing productivity and enabling workers to work in completely new ways. In a recent IDC survey, 69.1 percent of those responsible for  managing mobility within their organisation had seen a reduction in costs as a result of implementing BYOD programmes.

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Beyond agile working: the six factors of knowledge worker productivity

flexible workingWhilst the world has focussed heavily on the asset productivity of offices over the last 30 years, reducing the cost of offices per head, often using agile working as a tool for achieving this, it’s becoming clear that the mobility afforded by the latest technology products can be used to aid Knowledge Worker productivity. Knowledge work plays an increasingly large part in the economic fortunes of developing countries. Indeed the vast majority of people working in AWA’s client organisations are Knowledge Workers. Over the last 30 years we’ve seen a gradual shift from manufacturing to service and now to knowledge based industries. Knowledge Workers are broadly speaking ‘people who think for a living’. Whilst the concept of ‘productivity’ in manufacturing and service industries is well understood it is barely understood at all for knowledge based sectors.

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Focus on wellbeing not productivity to improve company performance

wellbeingNew evidence has been published that claims workplaces that value employees’ safety and wellbeing as much as productivity yield the greatest rewards. A study from Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Public Health claims that when the organisation promotes productivity and wellbeing equally to workers, employees report having less work-related musculoskeletal pain. However, when workers perceived an emphasis on either performance or wellbeing unequally, regardless of which concept was felt to be more important, workers reported greater levels of musculoskeletal pain. The trend of emphasising workplace wellness and valuing employee health and wellbeing has been a focus in many organisations in recent years. This study adds new evidence to the argument that using principles such as ergonomics to increase wellbeing in the workplace benefits not only the employee, but the business too.

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The human mind and body are not really machines for living in

mini-Beano-NumskullsIt is ironic that while we live in a world in which we are witnessing the automation of more and more human skills and capabilities, we are often best able to understand the way people function with symbols of mechanisation. That is the underlying conceit of what is set to be the animated film event of 2015, Pixar’s Inside Out. The movie depicts the inner workings of the human brain as under the control of tiny people, literally inside our heads, making decisions on our behalf we only half understand. Those of us of a certain age in the UK will first have come across this idea in a comic called the Beezer which ran a strip called the Numskulls that depicted the inner workings of an unnamed man, consisting of small characters who ran the various departments of his body – eyes, ears , nose, mouth although obviously no lower intestine and genitals. But it has even older precedents.

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The latest issue of Insight weekly is now available for you online

Insight_twitter_logo_2In this week’s issue; Mark Eltringham on the challenge for FMs in managing buildings not of their own making; and why Charles Eames came to tire of his association with his famous lounge chair. Douglas Langmead explains how the patterns of work and place in the Middle East evolved differently from the west and Lee Parsons warns that not enough thought is given to creating workspaces that support knowledge circulation. We provide a gallery of the winners of this year’s RIBA awards; the CIPD and BIFM identify ways the office environment influence workplace performance,  construction begins on the UK’s “greenest commercial building” and new DOH guidelines on creating a productive and healthy workplace. Subscribe for free quarterly issues of Work&Place and for weekly news via the subscription form in the right hand sidebar, follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn Group to discuss these and other stories.

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Value older workers or sleep-walk towards a skills shortage, employers warned

Hiring older workersA demographic time bomb means employers must act to avoid a cliff-edge loss of skills and talents by 2035, a new study by the CIPD has revealed. There are currently 9.4 million workers in the UK today who are over the age of 50 and while the employment rate of older workers has increased significantly in recent years, there is still a 64 percent drop in the employment rate between the ages of 53 and 67. New research from the CIPD and the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK), the independent think tank on longevity, ageing, and population change, warns the UK could face serious skills shortages over the next 20 years. Unless organisations start improving how they recruit, develop and retain older workers it is estimated that the UK economy will struggle to fill one million jobs by 2035, even taking into account the mitigating effect of migrant workers.

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