Construction firms across the length and breadth of the UK are engaged in office refurb and refit projects that are aimed at enticing workers back to the office. During the COVID-19 pandemic, vast numbers of previously office-based personnel were required to work from home, and for many, this suited their way of life well.
Now that COVID-19 restrictions are a thing of the past, over half of UK firms want their employees back in the office full time, but with up to a third of UK workers reporting that they would rather quit their job than return to office full time, innovative new measures are being employed to make the office an attractive place to be.
Some businesses are promoting the office as a place to benefit from companionship and free energy, while others are offering free snacks and hot drinks to entice their workers back to their desks. 61% of UK businesses are making physical changes to their workplace.
July's Glenigan Construction Review shows that the value of London office planning approvals was double that of the same period a year earlier, but London is not the only place in which major office renovation projects are happening.
North West England
Office refurbishment work continues at pace in Yorkshire and the Humber, where the volume of planning applications has more than tripled to a value of £138M as compared to last year, while office refurbishment planning approvals across the North West of England as a whole have doubled this year to a value of £444M. This increased order book value is being driven by a growing need for Grade A, energy-efficient office space.
One construction firm that is heavily involved in this expanding portfolio is M&G Investments who have recently submitted plans for a £50.65M project at 50 Moseley Street in Manchester. This office extension project will commence in early 2024 and produce 23,000 square feet of useful business space.
In Warrington, Project Springboard is a £14.6M office refurbishment project that is being led by Tilbury Douglas on behalf of their client, Element Materials Technology. This 8 month project will deliver a high quality and energy-efficient, modern office premises.
In Leeds, a vacant 28,000 square foot property at 31 Wellington Street has been acquired by a joint venture partnership between Prescient Capital and Asset Capital who plan to extend the property, creating 8 storeys of modern office space which will span 97,000 square feet. This £13.6M project will require the partial demolition of the existing structure while rooftop and rear extensions will create valuable amenity space. The intent is to create over 700 new jobs, encourage green transport options and contribute to the city's economy.
South West England
One of the largest office projects in the country is planned to commence in Bristol in 2024. Dyson Technology's building at 1 St George's Square is set to be revamped in a £100M refurbishment and extension.
This new facility will secure Bristol's position as an "international hub for software and digital skills" as the primary purpose of the building will be as a development hub for a 10 year pipeline of products for the technology company.
In addition to developing a modern and efficient facility, a water source heat pump will be installed to increase the building's self sufficiency and extensive landscaping will ensure that the building blends into its surroundings and offsets some of its carbon footprint.
The volume of office refurbishment projects is notable in Wales, where planning approvals for work of this kind have risen 6-fold over the last year to £119M. A significant project that has recently been completed is the £8M refurbishment of 1 Callaghan Square in Cardiff.
This project has entirely transformed the 94,000 square foot facility, adding in a new double-height reception with lounge areas, meeting booths and even a coffee bar. Cycle storage, changing rooms and showers make the building attractive to green commuters, while its enhanced air quality, spacious workstations and abundant natural light contributed to its WELL Silver rating, strongly demonstrating the landlord's commitment to the well-being of its tenants.
Office refurb activity looks set to continue as employers attempt to entice their home-based and hybrid workers back to the office. Creating modern and attractive facilities with low operational and embodied carbon is a priority for these employers, and it is anticipated that demand for such facilities will only continue to grow.