BCO Annual Conference 2024: In Review

Reflecting on the recent British Council for Offices (BCO) Annual Conference, our team has been discussing the key takeaways…

Several fantastic panellists took to the stage to discuss and debate various topics, including retrofit vs. redevelopment, the impact of tech and creative sector on the future workspace, and, of course, AI.

It was clear across the various sessions that designing an ‘optimum’ workplace is becoming increasingly difficult. Users’ increasing number of considerations include neurodiversity requirements, activity-based workspaces, flexible working, and online meetings. However, this level of consideration proved to be a good investment as it appeared to make a positive difference in both user feedback and occupancy levels. Author and top neuroscientist Hannah Critchlow stated that creating the right environment for individuals to flourish can (and proved live on stage) directly impact a person’s brain function.

However, in his panel, Tim Oldman suggested that most office users actually have very simplistic workplace needs, stating that “a great desk setup, with excellent IT and a comfortable chair” is all we need.

Are we heading to a point where employees can choose the colour of their desk space, the light fitting above their head and the temperature of their immediate workspace?

Another key topic discussed at the conference was retrofit vs. refurbish.

In almost every appraisal, the question is asked of the design team: how much do we retain?

According to this year’s panellists, the answer is not straightforward. In terms of embodied carbon, the substructure is one of the big hitters, and naturally, this points to retaining what we can below ground. However, the quality of as-built information makes the extent of re-use challenging to confirm.

The big question, however, was whether we should concentrate on operational carbon and energy, which the growth of NABERS will inevitably assist with, or do we focus on embodied carbon. The overwhelming response from the panel? We have a problem NOW, and that means doing what we can to reduce carbon as much as possible right now. However, it’s important to remember that technology will continue to develop and hopefully, provide solutions for say, carbon capture in the future, so there is reason to be hopeful.