Just a few weeks into the New Year and already there are increasingly bullish noises coming from the major players in the UK’s commercial property sector, including firms such as Land Securities as reported here.
This is great news but you have to wonder at not only the future size of the market but also its shape. The past few years have seen structural changes in the way firms design and manage their workplaces. Mobile technology and new working practices have meant that time is no longer the fixed element that determines the way we use space. It has become a variable and that has changed everything.
Of course, the way we procure and use space has been changing for a number of years. That is why in its 2009 Guide to Specification, the British Council for Offices reported that the average density of the office workplace had increased by around 40 per cent since 1997. As a result the BCO increased its density standard from the previous advisory 12-17 sq m to 8-13 sq m per person. The new average benchmark for the office environment has been set at 10 sq m.
Even this figure hides another layer of complexity because it is not based solely on the number of people who work nine to five in a fixed place in an office but on a new idea of the office as a base to work from for an increasingly peripatetic workforce. It is this twisting of both time and space that makes forecasting the size of the market so difficult.
The commercial property market may increase in 2011, but it will look very different to what we have seen before.