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TFE on Bring Your Office to Life, another great thought provocation

Tone Wheeler speaking at Bring Your Office to Life
Tone Wheeler speaking at Bring Your Office to Life

The Bring Your Office to Life forum on Tuesday was packed with nuggets of insight and knowledge that kept the audience in rapt attention from the first word to the last. You could tell because there were no wandering eyes gazing out to the stunning views from the windows, and no fiddling with phones. And that’s saying something.

Views into truths or reality will do that.

Sometimes it was the science that created the big mental bangs, sometimes the nuanced interpretation of what’s out there, only thing missing the logic that connects the dots.

For example, there was Bates Smart’s Kellie Payne, talking about the test of memory with two groups, one of which is sent out to wander the city streets, the other a park.

Kellie Payne and Libby Sander

“The city strollers saw no change at all in performance,” she said. “But those who walked through a park saw a 20 per cent improvement in their memory.”

It’s not just a plant in the corner that can instantly make you a better thinker; it’s the dappled light of a forest and the exposure to complex natural systems.

It’s about understanding the subtlety, Payne said. “We find it’s about the meander and the wander, the ‘control of where I’m going; I can go down a path and back again’.”

So, here on the slides was a new building, not with a green wall, but instead a central void with “intertwining green walls that create dappled light and with interconnecting stairs”. More like the randomness of nature, then.

We need nature as a counter to the stress of modern life.

Libby Sander of Bond University and founder of the Future Work Project mentioned that sociopaths in the workplace were on the rise.

She opened with a view of a stunning deep ravine in Iceland. People are paying $20,000 to get lost in Iceland. They are dropped here and that’s it. They need to find their way out. You could almost hear minds in the audience yearning for the challenge.

City life moves fast indeed and no more so than in the office.

Craig Rodgers

But not as fast moving as the people who went from hand-written hand-delivered letters to telegrams, or the people who first invented fire, MC Howard Parry-Husbands from Pollinate pointed out. Even the internet hasn’t been as big a change to us as those major leaps by our ancestors.

On that score, you have to think how radical the printing press was. There are many who think it gave rise to Calvinism and in turn the entire US experiment.

But our perceptions of change and pressures are enough to make our workplaces sick places. Or unhappy places.

We want to and need to make our workplaces healthy and happy because we spend so much time in them.

We try new methods such as activity-based working, we heard, then refine it for the professions that need something different, then refine it again.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Daryl Clifford, who attended the event, was generous enough to share his practice’s experience of their new space designed by Bates Smart.

Others in the room spoke up, asking for advice on solutions to problem seating at a spouse’s workplace. Who you sit next to is important, we heard. Sitting randomly next to strangers in a 3000-square-metre floor plate is not conducive to a sense of belonging and loyalty (Whoever thought that it would?).

A neighbourhood of about 30 is best, we heard.

There is science to measure health now. We heard about the rise of the WELL rating (Loreta Brazukas of Floth); the intractable resistance to innovation and evidence-based decision making in our built environment, which is victim to our risk averse industry (Christian Criado-Peres, University of NSW and CRC for Low Carbon Living).

And from Tone Wheeler of Environa we heard about the evolution of sustainability and environmentalism, which when you think about, he said, is a feminist revolution – thanks to Barbara Ward, Rachel Carson and Jane Jacobs.

Wheeler mentioned phase change materials tested in Council House II in Melbourne and how ambient temperature is the true measure of comfort.

And of course our investor panel is always a big hit. This time with Liam Timms from Lendlease, Craig Rodgers from Charter Hall and Deborah Bishop from Dexus.

Where the big property owners are putting their money and what they see as trends is huge and will drive this industry. Lendlease, said Timms is big on WELL (it won a Platinum rating recently).

Technology was crucially important to all – Dexus with the ability to modernise and bring up to current expectations Waterfront Place in Brisbane, which was developed 35 years ago; Charter Hall, which had developed its Comfy method of enabling individuals’ input into temperature control and a technology start-up program; and Lendlease with its constant drive to keep delivering the very best possible.

All agreed a strong backbone with plug-and-play is the way of the future.

#DeleteFacebook and other ethical issues

On the ethics of data mining and the responsibility of owners who are embedding countless monitors in their buildings it was interesting to hear that the #DeleteFacebook movement was not a major concern.

There was so much good that could be delivered by technology, we heard – the positives set to outweigh the negatives. But the community needed to be invested in steering the direction and outcomes of our new high-tech world. Government and regulation was not even at the starting gate it came to what we need here.

In the end it’s “We the People” who must seize the agenda and tell our bosses what we want, and they in turn will share our needs with the property owners and the consultants who will deliver the outcomes.

A massive thanks to all our speakers who put themselves out to share the things they are so passionate about.

An even bigger thanks to our sponsors who match great commitment with the support needed to make this event a reality.

Bates Smart, Floth, the CRC for Low Carbon Living, Venue sponsors Corrs Chambers Westgarth and MC Howard Parry-Husbands from Pollinate.

And last but not least to our partners in Bring Your Office to Life CitySmart.

There is so much more to report. Keep watch.

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