What if we could squeeze down these ancillary areas? Could we then increase the available space for people to work in and therefore make these buildings more efficient? And what if we recognise that the way we work has changed by not looking to fill these spaces with rows of desks, offices and meeting rooms? Would this make more effective workplaces and would these buildings then stand up better to comparison? If we don’t want traditional office space what do we want? Smart working enables us to use offices differently. Our tastes have changed too: we want characterful and quirky in place of monochrome and modular, with greater emphasis on social and interactive space over isolated solitary offices. We want options that suit our personal tastes, not generic solutions imposed by rank or seniority. We don’t want to own desks or offices, instead we want to be consumers of highly serviced, easily operated and properly equipped facilities. If these features better describe what we need, how would heritage buildings stand up to scrutiny now? Quite well actually. Let’s look at an actual case study: Bristol’s Grade 2* listed City Hall was a typical large council building built between the world wars and prominently located in the city, used for public-facing democratic activities and as an administrative HQ. Can the building efficiency be improved? Prior to refurbishment only 40% of the building’s administrative area was occupiable.
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