Workplace Anachronisms: No. 1 – the BCO Specification Guide

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Boy Wearing Men's Dress Shoes and Suit --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisThe British Council for Offices claims that it is ‘Britain’s leading forum for the discussion and debate of issues affecting the office sector. Its members are organisations involved in creating, acquiring or occupying office space, whether architects, lawyers, surveyors, financial institutions or public agencies.’ If true, this makes its Specification Guide all the more remarkable for not only being wide of the mark about at least one key issue when it was published back in 2009, but about which it is growing increasingly redundant by the day.

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Building designers should pay more heed to what users need

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The future for London's skyline

The future for London’s skyline

These past two weeks have seen me playing and working in what I believe is fondly referred to as “That London” by those who live and work in the rest of the United Kingdom. Whilst resisting the temptations of the capital’s fleshpots, I’ve had the time to reflect on the design of public spaces and wonder at the architectural munificence that gave us, within a single square mile or so; The Shard, The Gherkin, St Pauls Cathedral and the engineering marvel of Tower Bridge (I also had the chance to sample Japanese octopus balls, but that, as the saying goes, is another story altogether).

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Psychrometry is key to holistic energy efficiency

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KS20 Psychrometry

A holistic energy efficiency strategy is needed to ensure a balance between efforts to make buildings more airtight and the need to increase ventilation. This is why an understanding of psychrometry is an increasingly important issue for the built environment. Psychrometry is used to prevent environments being created which are detrimental to health, either through too dry an atmosphere or conditions where damp and mould can flourish says the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) which has issued new guidance.

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Yahoo is not the only firm that doesn’t like flexible working

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Yahoo! Sunnyvale headquarters.  October 28, 2001 (Y! Photo / Brian McGuiness)As news emerged over the weekend from Silicon Valley that Yahoo had introduced a new policy that insisted employees work from the company’s HQ, a survey from O2 in the UK highlighted just how many firms are not as keen on the practice of flexible working as they might claim in theory. The question we need to ask is whether this represents a genuine shift away from the assumption that we are moving towards more agile working practices, or is this just the last knockings of the old guard?

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What gets measured in the workplace, gets managed

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MeasureAre we finally seeing the first signs of the end of the downturn?  Earlier this week the Government announced that UK unemployment had fallen. While I know there have been quibbles about what this all meant, other data from specific market sectors backs up the idea that we may be seeing some tentative causes for hope.  One of the most heartening was last week’s survey from Randstad which reported growing levels of optimism among financial services firms about their prospects and the fact that the majority would be increasing headcount this year.

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US Federal government confirms green-building requirements

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the_white_house_0

A new study prepared for the United States Department of Defense (DoD) by the National Research Council has given the seal of approval on the importance of green-building certification programs as tools to reduce energy use and other operational costs. “This reaffirmed what we’ve been saying all along – that LEED makes good economic sense,” said Fleming Roberts, Associate, Policy & Advocacy at the US Building Council. “The report recommended that the Department of Defense should require its new buildings or major renovations to be designed to achieve at least LEED Silver certification.” More →

Brussels to challenge the UK in court on Green Deal VAT

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Office at nightThe European Commission has confirmed intends to take the UK Government to court to force the Treasury to impose the full rate of VAT on energy-saving goods which are a key element of the flagship Green Deal energy efficiency scheme. The Green Deal is designed not only to improve the UK’s environmental performance but also boost the economy. The commission issued a statement yesterday confirming it would refer the UK to the EU Court of Justice over the practice of imposing reduced VAT rates on green goods which it claims break EU law and won’t deliver the aims of the government’s flagship Green Deal energy efficiency scheme.

Greenbiz publishes latest State of Green Business report

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Green Biz_0000Greenbiz has published its sixth annual State of Green Business report, setting out what it claims are the ten key environmental trends for organisations to look out for in 2013. Many focus on the overlap between pure business goals and corporate social responsibility, for example in terms of managing supply chains to reduce risk, making more efficient use of resources, the impact of new technology and working practices and the role of creating value through a healthy working environment.

A third of companies make no checks on their suppliers

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Broken chainThe ongoing European horsemeat scandal may be the most high profile example of what happens when companies lose sight of what is going on in their supply chain, but according to a new report from Ernst & Young, ignorance of the ethical standards and activities of suppliers in the UK is endemic. Over half of UK businesses do not carry out due diligence on their suppliers and 30 percent admit to carrying out no checks at all. In turn, this inevitably throws doubts on the ethical standards of the same companies as well as any environmental or other aspects of corporate social responsibility.   More →

Room for improvement in public sector workplace management

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Portcullis HouseLast week technology company Citrix announced that the UK Government could cut its property costs by a third by adopting flexible working policies. It used a Freedom of Information request to discover how much space each public sector employee in the UK is allocated and how much it costs then applied a formula to work out how this would be affected by greater adoption of flexible working. What was interesting was not just the up-front argument you would expect from an ICT provider but also the discovery that the average employee is allocated 1.1 workstations with some enjoying 1.6. More →

Tipping point reached in battle between tablets and PCs

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Surface proThe signs of the final showdown between the personal computer and the tablet are now all around us. It is evident in the launch of new products such as Microsoft’s Surface and the new generation of more powerful iPads which can (nearly) match the performance of Apple’s own laptops. It is also evident in the restructuring of firms like Dell, once the world’s most successful PC maker. The end result will not only be a new shape for the products on which we work but also a new shape for the places in which we work. Our postures will change and so too will the things we need to support us.  More →

Whatever the office of the future is, it should be there to serve people

Whatever the office of the future is, it should be there to serve people

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Larkin BuildingFuturology 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’. But that shouldn’t make us blind to those predictions that we know will largely come true, not least those based on what we know is happening in the present. This is typified by research carried out by Cass Business School and Henley Business School and presented in a book called Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive in the New World of Work. It found that two-thirds of the 360 managers it surveyed believe that there would be a revolution in working practices over the coming decade. Ninety per cent said that staff were more productive when empowered to decide when and where and how to work.

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