What does your office look like?

High Technology11th February, 2013.

 

What does your office look like?
 

 

By Paul Wells, Director, Building Consultancy


 
 

 

From a commercial property viewpoint an easing of credit and availability of finance for property lending will provide some real impetus to growth.  My colleague Neil Slade talked about a shortage of new development where demand exists but credit is difficult and I thought it was worth supporting Neil’s piece with a little more detail.
Well the headline from the latest Ernst & Young Item Club that “The crippling credit crunch is loosening” certainly seems to be a pointer that the availability of credit may be getting a little easier.
There is little doubt that the ongoing credit crunch and crisis in the Banks continues to affect business thinking nearly 5 years on from the start of the world’s economic woes.  The effects on property both commercial and residential are well catalogued and there for all to see – not least the retreat of values!
It is not an argument for inflating property values – what we need is more financial liquidity in the market to ‘make things happen’.
The Item Club lays bare some of the statistics around the credit crunch.  Part of their commentary was how UK Banks borrowed “£900 billion” that was borrowed from overseas up to 2008 and how we’ve been paying the price ever since as the UK reigns back from the £100 billion a year that Banks were using to fund domestic lending.
The Item Club explain that once it happened, the breakdown in the funding markets triggered several other crucial factors.  Secondary banking subsidiaries had to be supported, straining capital adequacy ratios.  Loan losses had the same effect.  Bank boards, as well as their shareholders and regulators, became very risk-averse as the losses mounted.  Tougher capital and liquidity requirements exacerbated the lending squeeze.  The ensuing recession made Banks even more worried and of specific concern for those earning their money in the property market, about the solvency of mortgage borrowers and small businesses.  Lending was depressed because the economy was depressed and vice versa, a classic vicious circle.
The Item Club thinks the background of tight credit and the Banks’ liquidity issues may be coming to an end with credit and liquidity requirements having been relaxed.  The Bank of England’s new Funding for Lending Scheme is designed to increase the flow of credit and reduce its cost, increasing the funding gap, or at least slowing the speed at which it is paid down.  It will reinforce the effect of the revival of the UK mortgage-backed securities market seen in recent weeks.
Ernst & Young say that ‘Although banks remain very risk-averse, they are effectively shifting the risk lending to affluent home buyers who have equity to invest.  In the case of first-time buyers, the builders and the government are shouldering the risk through new-buy schemes.  The banks’ capital base is also recovering’ they say.  Furthermore they comment that ‘These developments help to explain the marked improvement in the mortgage market suddenly being signalled by the Bank of England’s Credit Conditions survey, the sharpest since this survey began in 2007.  In the third quarter of this year, a significant proportion of mortgage lenders said they had loosened their lending criteria or were planning to do so, while 22% were planning to reduce the mark-up on mortgage rates.  The survey suggested that little movement in unsecured lending and forecast a continued deterioration in the outlook for lending to small companies, which it seems, are still regarded as too risky.  Nevertheless, these developments are encouraging.’
A lot of economic detail but for ‘property watchers’ and for those like us working in the property industry these are important pointers for how the market may perform over the next 12 to 24 months.
Not sure we can say this is the end of the credit crunch although we’d all hope that, it may just be the ‘end of the beginning’ though

From the 1950’s into the 60’s and early 70’s, low spec and low tech were the primary characteristics of pretty much all office space.  The progression into the 70’s saw what we would now recognise as ‘modern’ offices with proper passenger lifts; suspended ceilings; mechanical air handling and the like.  The 80’s and early 90’s saw more and more updates on the 70’s model of what an office should look like as we headed into high tech, high spec work places crammed with up to the minute IT and technological gizmos.  Into the new Century and the green agenda became slowly wedded to that fast track of technology packed office space.

After so much progress in how our offices looked we then had recession.  A report at the beginning of this year by Deloitte started to paint the emerging picture that is becoming clear in this new era where viability needs to capture low maintenance and lower construction costs.  The report thinks a future office with be less sophisticated in finish with lowered specifications and less reliance on integrated IT infrastructure. The report suggests much will be learnt and used from cheaper residential construction styles.

With widespread wi-fi, cloud technology, powerful smartphones and the like means work space is fusing with personal technology at an unrecognisable pace.  So as workplaces have to become more flexible to accommodate home working, hot desking and part time work the “traditional office” has had to change.

How this all impacts on the property market is many and varied so that not only are property professionals having to advise clients on what to do with the secondhand office space that has come back to so many but also help interpret and advise occupiers; developers and funds on how office space will look like in the future.

At Harris Lamb our office acquisition and advice work for occupier clients has seen for instance the trend for condensing occupancy and higher density for say 1:80/1:100 sq. ft. as opposed to levels 10 years ago of 1:110 sq. ft. and upwards.  Our space planning has changed as have the specifications on refurbishments and new build.

Whatever happens going forward people will still need to work together and the office has its place.  The key is how space will evolve and how fashions will change, the out of town office park has perhaps had its day and the trend for location next to key transport points and even town centres!  This may all keep us alive to clients changing requirements for the space they occupy.


If you would like help or advice on what your office could look like then contact one of the Building Consultancy and Project Team at Harris Lamb on 0121 455 9455 or email paul.wells@harrislamb.com

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