The war against environmental cynicism puts an onus on suppliers to be honest

Roller Painting House Siding GreenGreenwash is one of those terms that has gone from needing an explanation to being in common usage in the space of a few years. The reason for that is quite simply that it is the perfect description of a particular form of marketing bullshit that we all recognise. However, while a degree of scepticism about what you hear from marketers is always healthy, but I fear the point has been reached where some people find it easy to dismiss real environmental claims as greenwash. The war against cynicism can partly be helped if more manufacturers and suppliers could get better at demonstrating the validity of their claims.

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Effective recycling is about good management as much as it is materials and design

We all like to think we are discerning about what we will and won’t put in our trolleys at the supermarket. Not any old salty, fat-saturated gloop will make the cut these days. That’s why the producers of food like to proclaim its healthiness on packaging, regardless of the nature of the product within. ‘Lower fat’ doesn’t mean low fat. Companies in other sectors follow suit. The office products market is one in which some manufacturers don’t mind a splash of green on product labels. This doesn’t do the customer or the buyer any good and can breed cynicism in the market, undermining the efforts of those suppliers who actually take a sophisticated approach to the environmental performance of their products.

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Predicting the future of the office means looking at what is happening now

display_img_01Futurology is notoriously a mug’s game. Especially when it comes to making predictions about technology. Just ask Ken Olson, the founder of DEC who in 1977 pronounced that ‘there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home’. Or Bill Gates himself who once claimed that Microsoft ‘will never make a 32 bit operating system’. Most recently Steve Ballmer, a billionaire executive said in 2007 ‘there’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.’ But mone of these retrosepctively viewed dodgy predictions should make us blind to those that we know will certainly come true, especially those based on what we know is happening in the present.

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Dual source lighting schemes illuminate the way ahead for office design

Element790_Siemens2_MToo bright, too dull, too much glare – lighting (alongside air conditioning) is often one of the most contentious factors in a workplace. Office workers need illumination to read, write, type and interact. Yet many workplaces get it wrong and fail to consider the downsides of poor lighting, and as such staff will suffer from eye strain, headaches and postural problems, leading to sick days, not to mention lost productivity and mistakes. Eighty per cent of office workers experience at least one negative effect from poor quality lighting, according to researchers Bruskin Goldring, and 68 per cent of employees complain about the light in their offices, according to a study by the American Society of Interior Designers.

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Baltimore residents offered a “guns for laptops” exchange

Baltimore City hosts guns for laptops exchange

Growing concerns regarding the incursion of connectivity devices into our everyday lives ignores the fact that many people have little or no access to these tools. Access to the Internet may have been ruled as a UN human right, but that doesn’t really help those who can’t afford devices that connect them to the web in the first place. So, while for most Europeans the recent story in the Baltimore Brew that locals could turn in their guns in exchange for a refurbished Dell laptop is pretty jaw-dropping, it’s a good example of the difficulty residents in a deprived area have in, as the organisers describe it, “bridging the digital divide.”

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What Graeme Obree, the Flying Scotsman, can teach us about workplace innovation

What Graeme Obree, the Flying Scotsman can teach us about workplace innovation

Innovation is one of the over-used words in the UK built environment. In fact, it is used so much that its true meaning is being left behind by marketing teams and spin doctors. The real definition is about a new method, idea, product, i.e. some form of technological innovation. Think about the last time you read of a claim for an innovative product, method or management concept. How new was it really? Often ‘innovation’ is more to do with the Emperor’s clothes than an effective new method or a radical product that changes a manufacturing process or reduces carbon, or just makes life and work more efficient. More →

The challenge in Silicon Alley is providing the right quantity and quality of office space

M4 Silicon AlleyNews emerges from BNP Paribas that the most dynamic occupiers in Western European property markets belong to the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sector and that the most important market in the region is London. This comes as no surprise given the plans of Google to move to its new home in King’s Cross and the focus on developments in Tech City. But the same hothousing of TMT businesses is also evident in the area Prime Minister David Cameron has referred to as Silicon Alley, a cluster of businesses running alongside the M4 originally clustered between Reading and Swindon but now extending as far as Bristol. Companies that have found a home in the area include the likes of Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, Ericsson, Vodafone, O2, Citrix, Dell, Huawei, Lexmark, LG, Novell, Nvidia, Panasonic, SAP and Symantec not to mention the countless other smaller businesses, consultants and freelancers that share this hothouse.

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Design Museum sale paves way for resurrection of Commonwealth Institute

Commonwealth InstituteDeskheads of a certain vintage may have viewed the news that Zaha Hadid had bought the Design Museum’s London home for £10 million in a somewhat different light to much of the media that reported the sale. While journalists succumbed to the apparently irresistible pull of architectural headline magnet Zaha, to some of us the interesting part of the story was that the sale finally freed the Design Museum to move to the long empty Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington. The building is one of the most architecturally important modern buildings in London and has a long association not only with The Commonwealth Institute educational charity but as a venue for cultural events and exhibitions of design, not least the now defunct Prima and Spectrum exhibitions which did so much to promote commercial interior design in the UK.

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BIFM partnership with DWP may prove an ill-advised and short-lived union

Las Vegas WeddingRather like someone who collects friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter with the obsessiveness of the avid lepidopterist completist, news reaches us from the British Institute of Facilities Management concerning yet another partnership. Not content with the recently announced merger with Asset Skills, the Facilities Management Association and the Cleaning and Support Services Association, this time it’s the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) that is the object of BIFM’s affections. Not that BIFM are considering moving in to Caxton House and a run for Parliament in 2015 (at least not that we are aware of). But while BIFM are, understandably, trumpeting the signing of this joint agreement, the DWP are not. In fact, if one searches on www.gov.uk using the search terms “BIFM” or “British Institute of Facilities Management” no results are returned.

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Douglas Engelbart helped to define our relationship with technology and each other

Douglas Engelbart helped to define our relationship with technology and each other

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The obituaries of Douglas Engelbart, who died on Tuesday, invariably characterised him as ‘the inventor of the mouse’ which is downplaying the contribution he made to our ability to interact with computers. He had the foresight to see that our relationship with technology would become one of the defining characteristics of modern life and he had it at a time when computers were the size of rooms and programmed using punched cards. He took part in the world’s first videoconference and developed ideas for early incarnations of word processors, the internet and email. He made no money from the mouse, the rights for which were sold to Apple for $40,000 in 1983 and the patent for which ran out in 1987. He was honoured in his lifetime however, winning the Lemelson-MIT prize in 1997 and a National Medal of Technology for ‘creating the foundations of personal computing’ in 2000.

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The world’s enduring love hate relationship with its tall buildings

Jean Nouvel Duo Towers in Paris

Jean Nouvel Duo Towers in Paris

One day, news will emerge from Dubai of a new development that doesn’t break some record or other, or at least one that isn’t solely about the size of a building. The latest example of the Emirati obsession with scale is the plan by developers DMCC, the people who brought you the Jumeirah Lake Towers, to create the world’s largest commercial office building as part of a 107,000 sq m development of their business park. Although still in the development stage, the developers have their eyes on usurping the current holder of the tallest office crown, Taipei 101, the 509m-high building which was the world’s tallest tower of any sort until the Burj Khalifa came along in 2010. In their press announcement the developers claim the new tower will act as a magnet for multinationals, although not everybody is quite so enamoured of the idea that tall is best. More →

Younger workers’ CSR ethics don’t necessarily extend to older generation

Younger workers' CSR ethics don't extend to the older generation

Is ageism one of the last bastions of accepted prejudice in the UK? Take the Daily Mail’s “night of the living dead” coverage of the Stones’ Glastonbury performance – deemed acceptable where jokes regarding gender, race or disability are not. A new survey illustrates this attitude. Nearly half of younger workers in a recent poll think older colleagues are in danger of stifling their career prospects by retiring later, that their prolonged presence could damage productivity and that they have very little to teach the younger generation. Yet over half (55 per cent) of Generation Y workers questioned in the poll say the ethical credentials of a company would influence their choice of employer. Since the scrapping of the Default Retirement Age (DRA) the number of over-65s in the labour force has exceeded one million, and the survey, carried out for KPMG by OnePoll warns that tensions could rise as the need for employees to stay in the labour force for longer growing due to social and financial pressures. More →

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