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Changing tides of office occupation


Having finished up at the BCO conference in Manchester change seems to be the overriding message that I come away with.

With the last being in Copenhagen in 2019 it's clear that the people of the building and construction industry have changed: suits are now being replaced by chinos and trainers; Wednesday night’s party at hipster venue Hatch was very much a break from the corporate norm! 

For developers, the talk was all about changing from a location and specification model, to a model driven by the need to create a community. For occupiers, the talk was still about hybrid working and attracting people back to the office. Fit out projects are now focussed more on creating a sense of place for people to gather and work collaboratively, rather than rows of desks for people to show their presence, while still working in silo. Also, the much-discussed hub and spoke model during the pandemic is actually coming to fruition amongst the larger occupiers with panellists Ericsson, IBM and NatWest Group sharing their experiences with us. 

Discussions on the economic downturn indicated that material availability pressures may be alleviated later in the year, which will have a positive impact on costs. As cost consultants, we can help occupiers and landlords shape their design appropriately, find savings and direct funds to where they will be of greatest benefit to the business to attract their talent to come back together.

Looking to the future of offices

The most revelatory discussion in my view was left to the final session of the conference. Ed Gillespie and Mark Stevenson, the Futurenauts (if you haven’t checked out their podcasts already then you are in for a treat), raised the question of why aren’t people clamouring to get back into these shiny offices that we all build? They surmised that this was due to people’s dissatisfaction with the old corporate model. Their brilliant talk was very much a call to action for everyone to put purpose before profit. Legislation, compliance and promises of net zero targets are not enough, as sustainability in itself doesn’t work in an unsustainable world. What is needed are regenerative projects that actually repair the damage done to the natural world. They even challenged us to think beyond net zero to negative carbon impact - now that indeed would be a change. 

About the author 

Colin Wood is Head of Cost Management in the Project & Building Consultancy team, specialising in office fitouts for occupiers in London.

To contact Colin, email



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Colin Wood


Cost Management

London - West End

As a leading cost consultant in the EMEA region,I help to shape design solutions by maximising value to clients and protecting their commercial interests. 

I have worked as a cost consultant in London since 2000, initially working for Gardiner & Theobald for three years on a number of new build commercial office developments.  Upon joining Turner & Townsend in 2004 I primarily worked on cultural sector projects such as Darwin Centre Phase 2 at Natural History Museum and the refurbishment of Tate Britain.  Since 2010 I have specialised in interior fit out.  I joined the Colliers team in August 2019 to help lead our Cost Management offer.

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