The death of the office has been overstated but it is changing, study confirms

Death of the officeThe implications for the property industry of more efficient space planning models and the uptake of flexible working are laid bare in a new report from planning and design consultancy Nathaniel, Lichfield and Partners (NLP). The headline figure from the report, Workspace Futures: The changing dynamics of office locations is that the office stock in England and Wales rose by 17 percent in the twelve years to 2012 while the numbers of office based staff increased by around 21 percent. The report includes details on how these trends affect 11 key locations including Manchester, Cambridge, Bristol, Newcastle and Reading and concludes that while ‘the death of the office has been largely overstated’, the market is undergoing structural changes that need to be addressed by developers and government.

CaptureThe study of regions highlights how the demand for office space far outstrips its supply, especially in places like Manchester and Cambridge where hot-housed high tech and creative industries vie for whatever appropriate space is available to them.

This report identifies three broad location types (right) ‘that shape the office markets in major towns and cities – the urban core, the fringe/periphery and out-of-centre. Examining a number of case studies shows that there is a clear distinction between the role and structure of office markets based on where they are located and reflecting the intrinsic economic characteristics of different places. The challenge for both local authorities and the development industry as a whole is to understand the spatial planning needs for occupiers in each office market location typology.’

In an interview with The Planner, Ciaran Gunne-Jones, economics director at NLP, said: “Just a few years ago some were saying the traditional office would become a relic of the past with new technology fuelling a growth in remote working. But what we are seeing now is a major shift in the degree of flexibility and varying types of work spaces that cater for a diverse range of 21st century businesses and organisations. In some locations the measure is helping to repurpose obsolete office stock and, in time, may improve the viability of new office development. But in some higher-demand locations the loss of office stock is outpacing new supply with an ensuing race for space amongst occupiers. Local authorities need to assess how this will impact upon plans to meet longer-term office space needs in their areas, particularly if the measure is extended further.”