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Urban designers must take the lead to ensure healthier cities says RIBA


Birmingham had the least physically active adults

The link between design, urbanism, and public health is under renewed scrutiny. Last year, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) launched a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) and the Clinton Global Initiative to look at ways urban design can address US public health challenges. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has now published exclusive research which reveals the clear link between land use and public health in English cities. ‘City Health Check – How Design Can Save Lives and Money’ compared the nine most populated cities in England – Birmingham, Bristol,  Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – and Birmingham and Liverpool were found to be the worst cities for health. More →

Economic recovery may be constrained by lack of skills and office space

Supply and demandThere are signs that the nascent recovery in the UK economy is already starting to put pressure on the availability of skilled employees and appropriate commercial property for the most rapidly growing sectors. While the Government has announced that the UK’s economy has been growing at its fastest rate since 2007, a new survey published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES ) has claimed that nearly a quarter of vacancies in the UK have gone unfilled because of a shortage of much-needed skills. At the same time, claims a new report from DTZ, demand for commercial property is strengthening with take-up growing across the country while the availability of Grade A office space is declining rapidly.

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Green Building Council slams PM’s plans to slash environmental guidance

Plans to slash environmental guidance

The UK Green Building Council has condemned Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to scrap realms of environmental guidance. In a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses earlier this week, the Prime Minister said that by March 2015 Defra will have slashed 80,000 pages of environmental guidance, saving businesses around £100 million per year; “to make it vastly easier and cheaper for businesses to meet environmental obligations.” However Paul King, Chief Executive at the UK Green Building Council, branded the move utterly reprehensible. He said: “The Prime Minister’s boasts of ‘slashing 80,000 pages’ of environmental guidance is. It is the same poisonous political rhetoric from Number 10, devaluing environmental regulation in a slash and burn manner. These words are not only damaging and irresponsible, but misrepresent the wishes of so many modern businesses, both large and small.”  More →

New data suggests parents are frustrated at lack of flexible working

No entryFollowing last week’s revelation that the planned extension of Flexible Working Rights to all UK employees would be delayed beyond the proposed implementation date in April, new statistics released by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and a new report from the Working Families charity have revealed some of the disparities that exist in flexible working arrangements across the country. The Working Families survey of a little over 1,000 adults with dependent children, found that almost a third claim there are no flexible arrangements on offer where they work, leading many to feel resentful against their employers, with young fathers twice as likely to strongly resent the lack of flexible working affects their lives.

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Latest generation Y survey reflects characteristically idealistic thinking of youth

Maybe it’s the cynicism of middle age, but the most recent exploration of arguably, the most over-analysed cohort of workers in history – Generation Y – seems to reflect the archetypal idealistic thinking of youth. For example, while most Millennials (74%) believe business is having a positive impact on society by generating jobs (48%) and increasing prosperity (71%), they think it can do much more to address society’s challenges in the areas of most concern: resource scarcity (68%), climate change (65%) and income equality (64%). And quelle surprise, 50 per cent of Millennials surveyed wanted to work for a business with ethical practices. You have to wonder wouldn’t an examination of the hopes and aspirations of the last couple of generations of younger workers reveal similar ideologies, albeit without the benefit of their digital sophistication? More →

UK commercial property investment in 2013 hits a six year high

BroadgateLast year marked a six year high in commercial property investment across the UK according to a new report from property information providers CoStar, driven by increases in regional markets and a sharp upturn of interest in Central London from overseas investors. A total of £52.7 billion of transactions was completed across the UK in 2013, albeit that two-thirds of investments were made in London and the South East of England. It was also a year for record breaking deals, notably the Broadgate office development in the City (above) and More London on the South Bank, each of which were valued at £1.7 billion. London was particularly attractive for Asian investors who CoStar claim see it as a safe haven and invested £9.2bn, up 80.6 percent on 2012.

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Blue Monday hype obscures the real debate about workplace happiness

BlueSo here it is. Blue Monday. Officially the most depressing day of the year. We say ‘officially’, but like the idea of ‘Body Odour’ its common usage hides the fact that it was originally created as part of a 2005 PR campaign. For Sky’s travel channel. The whole idea of Blue Monday is couched in a pseudo-mathematical equation which includes factors like the weather, levels of debt, time since Christmas, low levels of motivation and, apparently, an unspecified variable known simply as ‘D’. Now, of course, none of this is either easy to define or measure and while we mock the idea, it’s not so far removed from Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts to measure ‘happiness’ as an alternative to GDP.

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Surge of turnover and employment growth in UK’s creative businesses

creativityThe Government has released new statistics that demonstrate the increasing importance of the creative sectors to the UK economy, although concerns remain about the UK’s creative skills base. The figures reveal that the overall turnover of creative businesses increased by just under 10 percent in 2012 and employment increased by 8.6 percent over the same period, more than any other sector. The creative industries are now worth more than £70 billion a year and employ 1.68 million people. While employment in the UK as a whole grew by 0.7 percent over the whole economy, jobs growth in the creative sector was 8.6 percent. There was also growth in export sales, up over 16 percent between 2009-11 and worth £15.5bn in 2011.

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Legal update – Employment Law changes ahead in 2014

Employment Law changes ahead in 2014

Some of the most hotly debated employment law issues from last year; including flexible working, workplace wellbeing and the contractual rights of employees look set to make more headlines this year, because 2014 is shaping up to be another year of significant change in UK employment law. While the timetable is subject to amendment, currently the Government is intending to introduce a number of revisions. The key employment law events and cases to watch out for in 2014 will include changes to TUPE, flexible working, flexible parental leave, employment tribunal procedures, redundancy consultation, Acas conciliation, calculation of holiday pay and post-employment victimisation;  which we list below in the date order in which they are proposed. More →

The BYOD conundrum remains how to strike the right balance about control

Sawing off branchWe predicted that the practice of Bring Your Own Device would remain an insoluble conundrum for many firms throughout the year and two recent pieces of conflicting advice on the subject make the point point for us. On the one hand, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK has issued fresh guidance to organisations about the possible perils of BYOD and the need to establish formal policies and procedures, including the ability for the firm to wipe ALL data from lost or stolen devices, determine applications and operating systems and decide on what happens to devices at the end of contracts. On the other hand a Gartner analyst has predicted that the dead hand of organisational control will mean around a fifth of BYOD policies will fail within the next two years, rendering the efforts at control completely counterproductive.

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SkyCycle. Great idea, but how realistic is it really?

Cycling in London

 A cycle lane in the sky is a brilliant concept. The very name conjures up visual images of 21st century transport networks that HG Wells might have been proud of. But wedged above the Enfield Town to Liverpool Street line or its equivalent it seems very unlikely. So let’s assume this is an exercise in marketing, making use of good research and creative design as a means to kick start the debate about how we get to work and how we can accommodate more different and more sustainable methods of commuting. And let’s not restrict this to London either. The capital might have more obvious issues, more publicity; a larger than life Mayor; plus too many cycling fatalities, but they are problems shared across the UK.

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The nine enduring workplace tensions to keep an eye on in the year ahead

The nine enduring workplace tensions to keep an eye on in the year aheadThere were a number of workplace issues that wouldn’t go away during 2013. And there’s no reason to believe we will resolve many of them during 2014 either. We can try to explain the recalcitrance of such things by referring to the enveloping fog that emanates from the commercial interests who promote problems to their customers so they can provide the solutions, but many are more deep-rooted. Technology and its constant radicalising effects is almost invariably the major driver of change, but it is only one thread in a complex web of social, professional, demographic, cultural and commercial changes. So here, in no particular order, are the issues we expect to spend the most time talking about on Insight over the next year. More →