Last week I attended this year's sell out BCO annual conference in Manchester and on returning to London I find myself telling anyone who asks (and some that don't!) that the city itself was undeniably the star of the show. 

We were introduced to the event by Joanne Roney OBE, the current Chief Executive for Manchester City Council who explained her ambition to make Manchester the best city in the world. Certainly the city has changed beyond recognition since I graduated from university there in 2005. Tremendous amounts of development have taken place, are ongoing and planned. 

As part of the conference programme delegates were able to attend a series of tours of buildings and developments in Manchester and also Salford, including BBC North, Media City UK, Mayfield and New Bailey. Many of these schemes have taken previously underused or neglected land and turned them into destinations - for work, and in many cases, also living. 

We also heard from three of Manchester's key developers: Chris Oglesby of Bruntwood, Martyn Evans of U+I and Phil Mayall of Muse Developments and ECF. 

They discussed their views on the future of the office generally:

  • Companies are focusing on acquiring 'best in class' workspaces
  • Place shaping was a frequently used phrase - the idea of creating places that people want to come to and stay in - to work, socialise and often live. People need to be inspired to come to the offices
  • There is likely to be a move away from businesses having a large central headquarters to a 'hub and spoke' model with smaller regional offices
  • Location will always be important but there are other factors that are influencing occupiers in their hunt for space: 
    • Specification for offices is key - net carbon zero is the aim. Occupiers are becoming more knowledgeable in this area and demand sustainability
    • Amenities are important - whether that is in the building itself or in the surrounding development
    • Flexibility in floorspace is a plus
    • Community is important i.e. who else is in the building and are they like minded?