When it comes to space utilisation different stakeholders in real estate can often have very different views on occupancy levels which is a hurdle that needs to be overcome to enable truly sustainable workspaces.
If you fill an empty jar to the top with rocks, many would say the jar is full. However adding in small pebbles, they will find the gaps in between the rocks and fill the empty spaces. Now I’m sure everyone will say it is full again. However, now you could add water and further still fill in small gaps between the pebbles.
I like to think about a building as an empty jar. The rocks represent available floors in the building. When the rocks fill the jar, the landlord is content that they have let the whole building out and it is at capacity.
However, each floor could be empty or barely occupied, as we have seen during the pandemic.
The pebbles represent the actual space utilisation of each floor. How much capacity of the desks in individual let offices are being used.
The water? Well, I like to think of that as the rest of the space such as meeting rooms, breakout space, event space etc. How much of the time are those spaces being used? All the desks may be in use but if the meeting rooms are empty, maybe you have too many and that could be put to better use. More importantly, demand is likely changing over time; being able to adapt to that and ensure a productive, healthy environment, means happy occupiers.
Space utilisation is important to achieving sustainable workspaces, as wasted underutilised space, means inefficient use of capital and energy. This ends up costing both the stakeholders paying the bills and rent, as well as the environment.
As we move forward, post-pandemic, sustainability and adaptability will be top priorities. Being adaptable in itself will lead to sustainable workspaces by default.
Rather than build as we did in the past; designing based on assumed use, we need to think about future-proofing spaces and build in adaptability by design so that spaces can stay efficient, sustainable and cost-effective as needs and demand change over time.
Fewer fixtures, more fittings. As we remove fixed elements of the built world we can enable more circular products that give us greater adaptability but also ensure less wasted material and better sustainable workspaces.
When I speak about adaptability, I’m referring to the capacity of buildings to accommodate substantial change.
Designing for adaptability drives sustainable workspaces through 3 main ways:
1. More efficient use of space
When thinking about the adaptability of spaces, we can break this down into a number of simple strategies:
- Flexibility to make minor shifts in space planning;
- Convertibility, or allowing for changes in the use of space; and
- Expandability, (or shrinkability if that’s the case) where how much of the space is used can be altered to suit different tenants, who may need to grow or downsize over time.
Depending on the use and nature of the space, 1 or multiple of these strategies may be relevant.
By building in adaptability in space design, you can ensure the full space available, is being used. Maximising space utilisation may not change energy consumption in a building, but it is ensuring energy is not wasted.
In turn at scale, we need fewer buildings as we are maximising the use of existing buildings. This will lead to much larger benefits for the environment, cutting large amounts of both embodied and operational carbon emissions.
2. Increased longevity
A space that is more adaptable will in theory be useful for longer as it can respond to change at a lower cost. Since going forward, the office may be an option rather than a requirement, this ability to adapt will hold greater importance.
When looking at adaptable design, two considerations need to be looked at:
By looking for durable demountable solutions to workspace interiors we can extend the lifespan of stuff inside our spaces and ensure space plans can be adapted again and again further extending usable life and cutting waste over the long term.
3. Improved operating performance
Electricity accounted for one-third of building energy use in 20191.
During the pandemic, and despite the reduction in people in offices across London, many buildings have been lit up throughout the night. Often this may just be because of the simple case that those who pay the energy bills and those who have control over the lighting or HVAC are often not the same people.
One key area that needs to improve today, is the communication between landlords and tenants.
Technologies used in buildings – like lighting and ventilation systems – has seen efficiency more than double over the past 10 years. By designing in adaptability when it comes to technology installations, means it is easier to stay up to date benefit from technological innovation sooner and at lower cost.
At Incube we have developed Cubes and CubeOS to help you future-proof your real estate portfolio. Whether you’re a commercial real estate landlord or tenant, get in touch today and see how you can affordably create smart, adaptable and sustainable workspaces. Contact us here.