Open-access content 6th October 2008
26 June 2008
Understanding political decisions taken at EU level enables businesses to take commercial advantage, that was the message from British Council for Office's (BCO) senior vice chairman Nick Ridley in his opening address to the organisation's conference in Brussels earlier this month. "The credit crunch is right on top of us. It is time to reshape businesses, the world has changed," Ridley continued, alluding to the drastic contrast in the business and financial world since the BCO's 2007 conference, held in New York last May.
"The purpose of this conference is for us all is to do more business. I want us all to understand better the economic, demographic and investment climate of Europe. In that context we prosper from applying our state-of-the-art knowledge and experience."
The BCO selected Brussels as the venue for its 2008 conference to exemplify the overtly political edge that the organisers are seeking the event to demonstrate. In addition, Ridley noted, the journey for many of the UK-based delegates would see them using the new link from St Pancras International station in order to get to Europe's administrative capital.
Guest speakers at the opening plenary session were BBC presenter and political commentator Andrew Marr, former director general for environment at the European Commission Jim Currie and Amlan Roy, head of global demographics and pensions research at Credit Suisse. Marr noted that the UK still worked with EU partners "at an angle, this is why we have to present our passports and change our cash when we visit. " He predicted that closer union was unlikely to follow any time soon whether the UK governed through the next few years by Gordon Brown "the man who kept us out of Europe" or by a Conservative Party that "will be considerably more Euro-sceptic than any before, even under Margaret Thatcher."
The two-day event featured the BCO's regular conference style, mixing traditional seminar sessions and debates with tours to the host city's most high profile facilities.
The BCO is continuing research into a proposal to change its best practice advice on office temperatures. In a session led by Steven Davidson of Land Securities delegates discussed the notion that the BCO's current advice of 22ºC being the best temperature for the office (set out in its 2005 best practice guide) be altered to 24ºC.
One of the main drivers for the change is the energy and emissions saving that could be achieved given that cooling alone made for 8 per cent of a building's emissions level.
William Poole-Wilson, of Pringle Brandon, explained how architects could make more of colour and images in interiors to aid occupants comfort.: "We see temperature as well as feel it." Ant Wilson of Faber Maunsell called upon engineers to look at comfort from a more holistic point of view rather than simply a reading on a thermostat, "There are other factors - clothing, metabolic rate. But it is clear that you can never keep everyone happy."
Paraphrasing Bill Clinton, consultant Brian Warwicker stated: "It's the humidity, stupid." He did not disagree with the idea of a move to 24ºC but said: "We still have work to do to nail down the issue of comfort."
Davidson then gave a brief overview of a practical case study that Land Securities will carry out this summer at Cisco Systems, Feltham. Cisco has given over a floor of a campus building that will see it's temperature raised to 24ºC, the level proposed to become the new advice.
The study, set to proceed between June and September 2008 will involve the capture of data to see how much energy is saved and to monitor the reaction of the occupants to the new temperature level.