September 22, 2014
The British Council for Offices (BCO) has launched the much awaited new edition of its Specification Guide. Last updated in 2009, the 2014 issue aims to cement the publication’s position as the ‘definitive guide to office development in the UK’. As well as its traditional subjects of occupier density and building infrastructure and services, the latest edition covers topics such as building information modelling (BIM) rights to light, updates to BREEAM and amended planning law and building regulations as well as topical issues such as the inexorable rise of the ‘coffee shop workplace’ and the provision of cycle parks. Richard Kauntze, chief executive, claims the revised BCO Specification Guide represents a greater focus on the needs of end users.
“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and [the guide] includes invaluable advice for occupiers and the latest thinking on how to make the most of offices,” said Kauntze. “Property is a significant expense for businesses, but if it is understood properly and used efficiently it is a resource that can be optimised to deliver real benefits in employee performance through increased productivity and wellbeing.”
According to Mark Leeson of McBains Cooper, who was part of the steering group that reviewed the findings of the BCO’s 2013 Occupier Density Study and guided the drafting process and publication of the report: “the revision of the Guide reflects the much changed economic and social backdrop against which the industry undertakes the design, procurement and construction of offices in the UK”.
“In 2009, the economic outlook was bleak to say the least”, he says, “Since 2009, the increasing pace of change in IT, social media and working patterns has caused many in the industry to question the future of the office. Recent BCO conferences in 2013 and 14 explored these issues in detail. There is still a very real and significant role to play for the desk, but we can also meet, talk, share ideas and innovate on the sofa, standing up, drinking coffee and eating bagels! The success of the TMT sector as we come out of the recession is significant in driving these new work patterns, and there is likely to be no let-up in this pace of change.”
“In many ways, the new Guide cements and re-states the principles of the 2009 Guide – workplace density – well researched and therefore based on current data, remains in the range of 8-13sqm NIA per workspace. Toilet provision increases slightly from the old guide at 10sqm NIA per person from 12sqm. Other sections have now been added on BIM and more detail on the re-use of existing buildings – all very relevant and useful in the current market.”
It remains to be seen how the market responds to the new guide, but the build up to its publication has been characterised by a degree of scepticism. Last year the Architect’s Journal published a feature which included claims that the ‘industry Bible’ was too ‘prescriptive’, ‘stifling innovation’, and ‘a victim of its own success’. The comments emerged in response to news that the BCO will launch an updated guide in 2014, for which it is seeking feedback from the industry.
The journal quotes Benjamin Lesser, development manager at Derwent London as describing the guide as: “a specification and it’s read as a simple checklist. We need to unshackle ourselves from the BCO one-size-fits-all glass box with fan-core units.”