In trying to summarise this week’s joint talk to Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce by my colleague David Crowe and me, “who owns sustainability?” is a suitable statement. To put it simply, my section of the presentation concentrated on people and the spaces they work in. David concentrated on the buildings that provide these different spaces.
The evolution of people policies, technology and space planning strategies over the years have allowed workplace specialists to challenge clients, encouraging them to adopt smarter working principles. In terms of the physical environment, this means right-sizing and future-proofing spaces. Sustainability in this context is often related to user behaviour, and from the perspective of my own organisation, this has been driven from the ground-up and supported whole-heartedly by leadership.
SPACE have initiatives on a corporate level to address our carbon footprint, but I believe it is the responsibility of all staff to look at their individual contributions. We encourage our staff to get involved and actively influence the direction of travel of the organisation.
For David, discussing sustainability at a building scale is a different challenge altogether. One of the most intriguing concepts we are discussing with some of our larger clients is ‘dynamic stacking’, which tries to match changing demand with a flexible supply. If the building supports opening different work zones or floors, it makes sense to make available only as much space as the demand dictates. The days of ‘what if everyone shows up?’ have long gone. Not all building management systems and technologies are set up to support dynamic stacking, however all new buildings should be designed such that it can be implemented.
Market forces will drive the demand for sustainable buildings – both in terms of new builds and retrofits. Developers and landlords will look to the bottom line; what spaces can they rent at premium rates will be a very pertinent question, investors want stable, reliable long-term income. Sustainable buildings will not just happen. The data so far suggests those buildings that align with corporate ESG principles in terms of sustainability are the ones in demand. Those that don’t will become stranded assets.
This all ties back into the values of your organisation and where sustainability sits in your list of priorities.
To quote Patti Smith, “People Have the Power”.