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Why community office workspaces could be coming to a street near you

By Stephen Emerson
16 February 2022
Community office workspaces are coming to a neighbourhood near you according to Stantec's Scott Witchalls.

Two years on from the pandemic many of us are still hunched over makeshift workstations on a kitchen table or an apportioned desk section of a once rarely used spare bedroom.  

We may venture into the workplace on occasion or to meet a contact but for the most part we are alone and starved of social interaction and as offices close and working from home becomes increasingly entrenched in our culture it is clear that this new set up is here to stay. 

It is this need for human interaction, distraction-free productivity and comfort that is driving a radical rethink amongst architects and town planners as to how new residential and office developments should be structured in the future and one answer that is gaining traction is the creation of community office workspaces in new developments. 

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Stantec's director of transport and infrastructure, Scott Witchalls, who is speaking at The Business Magazine's 2030 conference said the concept of community hubs were gaining momentum in the design and construction industry. 

He said: “Not everyone wants to sit in a room all day on their own so there is a lot more thinking about creating community hubs in new developments. 

“These are spaces that you can walk to that provide flexible space and good communications and perhaps access to a coffee shop. 

“You will still be classed as working from home but will not have to commute and will have access to a really high- quality workspace near you. 

“There will also be home and lifestyle aspects to accompany this with more accessible green spaces and consideration for how parents can access childcare.” 

Scott  describes these community office workspaces as an evolution of the coffee shop or retail outlet that normally would be placed on a housing development once it reached a certain size. 

He said: “Community hubs will be places where people will go not only to work but they will also go there because other people are there. 

“At the centre of these areas will be a cafe or a bar with a zone for flexible working spaces and with meeting rooms that can be booked. 

“They are likely to be a building or series of buildings in a certain accessible area where these things are offered.” 

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Scott  believes community will be at the core of future property developments and the trend for large out of town developments designed around the car is decreasing. 

He said: “Stantec design with community in mind from the planning, to the design, to the delivery and think how we can help create places that people are proud to be part of. 

“We work with architects and developers to help influence the design of projects so that they are community-led. 

“Good developers are already thinking this way as their investment will realise a better return if they get these things right.” 

Scott points to three developments in the South East  that are strong examples of this community-led approach namely Kingshill in Kent alongside Station Hill and Green Park in Reading. 

He said: “Kingshill was a former airfield that started out as an out-of-town office park and has been transformed, through community engagement, into a mixed-use village of offices, residential, retail, leisure and green space that is used by people who live in and around the area. 

“Station Hill is the evolution of a big town centre regeneration aspiration to create an entirely new urban district for Reading where you can see the community-led mindset. 

“Green Park has evolved from an initial concept of a US-style out of town office park to one which had leisure and retail included before evolving again to become a whole new community complete with housing and its own railway station. The success test  that is that it is really well used and vibrant even in the evenings and the weekend.” 

As people’s lifestyle and choices change, so does the way we supply and consume energy. Our energy needs and infrastructure are becoming increasingly based on the fabric of our towns, cities and residential streets 

Scott believes this is a trend that will only accelerate as more residential homes begin selling energy they generate back to the grid and energy generated on a community wide basis is stored there in battery cells. 

“We know we have to move away from fossil fuels towards a zero carbon electric-based supply and the only way that this is going to be achieved is through both major infrastructure for strategic supplies and the roll out of energy generation in individual homes and community areas. 

“There is going to be more of a drive for decentralisation to help with the shortages in supply whereby the main supply comes from the grid but the decentralised supply provides electricity during the peaks and troughs.” 

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