Open-access content 6th October 2008
by Anna King
03 April 2008
There are some things for which Mipim can be relied upon; it will always be bigger than the year before; the sun will shine upon Cannes; champagne will flow and an over-familiar property agent will need to be swiftly side-stepped. Mipim 2008 delivered all of that but with a few welcome surprises to boot.
This truly phenomenal global property show attracted 29, 321 delegates from 85 countries this year. Contrast this with figures from Mipim's inception in 1990 when there were 2,973 delegates from 22 countries - word must be out. It is possibly time to contemplate how the networking opportunities can be preserved, among the plethora of conferences, seminars, presentation and cocktails parties on offer.
The crowd that needs to be catered for on the opening night is now so huge that it spans three venues. Jerry Lehane, director at Chapman Bathurst explained: "The number of delegates and increasing scale of Mipim is not a concern to me as long as the people I want to meet are still there and that was certainly the case this year. The best approach is to plan for 70 per cent of your time and leave the rest to chance, that latter can often be more rewarding."
As ever there were some amazing projects being showcased in the Palais de Festivales. Dubai, like Disneyland for the grown ups, never fails to astound. Of particular note was the Dubai Motorcity, due for completion in 2009, is a huge 3.5 million square metres of automobile and motorsport development.
The modestly named 'Russian Land' developers displayed three schemes by architect Lord Norman Foster, one of which will comprise Russia Tower, which at 600 metres will be the tallest tower in Europe - almost twice the height of the planned Shard of Glass by Renzo Piano in London.
The Ropemaker development by British Land in the City of London is an example of the extent to which the green-consciousness of developers has progressed. Designed by Arup Associated this 20-storey development incorporates systems aimed at cutting waste and decreasing carbon emissions. Half of the roof areas is designed as an outdoor roof garden. Other features include double-glazed tilting facades set to reduce energy required for cooling by up to 27 per cent.
The attention given to green issues was seemingly greater this year, possibly in recognition of the demands of end-users have pushed the issue further up the agenda.
As Clive Hall from BDGworkfutures commented: "Business is finally recognising that a green agenda can have a positive impact on the bottom line and is now a critical issue, which will keep it at the forefront of discussion".
The property industry is also seeking to take the control of the issue and acting with conviction, or, running the risk of becoming sitting ducks for imposed legislation. Liz Peace from the British Property Federation said: "Governments think buildings are an easy target for sustainability measures but as an industry we should be doing something about it. If we don't do it voluntarily, we'll be forced".
A whole day of the proceedings was dedicated to the cause and many more exhibitors were pushing the subject in their literature. For the first year a new "green" buildings category in the Mipim awards has been created, in which projects will be judged on their respect for the environment, operational sustainability and in particular the management of energy consumption.
The UK market was still the most heavily represented in terms of delegate numbers and exhibition space, although Russia made an impressive challenge to this title in terms of quantity and quality, with some prime positioned exhibition space. The German contingent was also up by 22 per cent, a key indication that we can expect an increase in activity in this market.
The Mipim crowd was slightly more subdued than last year. But only slightly, with more of a crumple than a crunch. The general feeling is that the gloom reported in the mainstream press is over exaggerated. One UK fund manager felt that the potential problems for real estate are not as severe as in the 1990s. Even more optimistic is a report by Reita (a lobby group for property investment), predicting that the UK commercial property market should stabilise by mid-year followed by a gradual recovery in the second half.
Colin McCloughlin, chairman of General Demolition, an industry that is essentially one step ahead of construction is more cautious: "In the 1990s no-one predicted that the property market would collapse, in the same way we didn't see the credit crunch coming. The problem this time is in reverse - the banks are giving the developers problems, in the 90s it was the developers who wouldn't borrow from the banks, the only certainty is that we are in precarious times and hope that stability returns soon."
Whilst we cannot deny that the market is entering a slower phase I couldn't find one person that used the word "recession". As Dean Manning, managing director of US-owned Structure Tone UK explained: "There is still not enough commercial stock so clearly there is demand. Despite the doom-mongers we are feeling very positive for 2008."
The food chain that keeps the world of property and construction moving can be a complex one, and at times it can be unclear who is feeding whom. But one thing is for sure; rise or fall, for the foreseeable future, no-one here is going to starve.