When lockdown is lifted and new normality dawns – whatever that looks like – Syntegra stands ready to support clients through a broad range of potential scenarios with its innovative ways of working and extensive expertise across sustainable service provision.
Of course, our teams remain fully committed to carrying out our services, albeit in revised or restricted formats in some cases, during this period of unprecedented closures and strict social distancing protocols.
But while working from home, we have all been applying ourselves to think how the built environment might be impacted in a positive way by the inevitable changes that will follow such a seismic downturn in the economy and people’s caution – or renewed optimism – around both need to have and nice to have changes to work and lifestyle.
While the arguments rage about what the new normal might look like practically, it appears everyone agrees that people’s attitudes to ways of working will have changed for good.
Many business leaders have spoken for a considerable time now about flexible working patterns and now, suddenly overnight, they have been forced to implement them. And it seems for the most part, organisations have adapted very favourably – and many employees will actually be reluctant to re-start the unenviable rush hour journey to the office when their daily commute has been across the landing or downstairs to a home-office working space throughout the Covid crisis.
And so, as office leases reach maturity, it may well be that companies relinquish them and landlords look to profit from the national hosuing shortage by seeking to convert properties into living spaces.
Shops, professional and financial services buildings and hot food takeaways can be converted to residential (up to 150m²). Light industrial and storage buildings may be converted to residential as long as the gross floor space of the existing building does not exceed 500m².
Syntegra MD Alan King said: ‘There is going to be a major shift like we have not seen before(social/economic/political/globalisation). This is not a recession, which happens in economic cycles, it appears we are on track for a depression which is why all the countries across the globe have been pumping buckets of cash into their economies to mitigate it being worse than the great depression impact in 1929.
‘A lot of office stock will start entering the market in Q3/4 as well as retail obviously. New build residential will be challenging this year but the social/starter home market still needs to deal with the housing demand and the big housebuilders, as in the 80s, will start hoarding their land banks whilst land values realign.
‘We are ready to work with developers and architects on any conversion projects as this will be an excellent opportunity to inject some sustainable business models into the construction industry. Everyone has been saying that the only winner from the pandemic has been the environment and I believe it’s incumbent on all of us, as we have the chance to shape the new normal, to be as green as possible in our strategic thinking and everyday lives.’
Peter Kilby, business development director at Syntegra said: ‘I think the office to residential scenario is very much on the cards and also, hotel to residential conversion is also very real with many hoteliers over leveraged and on their knees.’
David Thomas, BSG Director, said the company would have extensive experience working with architects as MEP consultants to implement efficient conversions.
Skillsets which could be utilised include public healh services, compliance of separating walls, extensive separation and duplication of sanitary accommodation, separation of security and data/broadband services/incomers, changes to AC/Ventilation, fitting out changes to fire alarm /zoning of master, changes to lighting with architectural treatment of ceilings and installation of all electric heating and other infrastructure.
David Lawther, non-executive chairman of Syntegra Group, predicts a permanent change in people’s attitudes to how they utilise office space and said businesses will look to ‘cater for more plug and play options that will require changes to office layouts overtime.
‘Syntegra offers planning led services and environmental services which will all be in demand and the team can cater for them.’
‘We still have a housing shortage in this country and it’s something some landlords will start to look at when leases expire.’
With hotels, he said, there will need to be a structured process for opening up and MEP systems all need to be validated ahead of opening up from their current mothballed state. ‘We can help on that journey,’ he said.
David Thomas said: ‘MEP systems need looking after just as humankind does and most hotel engineers are aware of their obligations for maintenance, many of which are statutory.
‘The drive for energy saving has always presented a temptation just to switch systems off, but this can lead to issues. Owners and operators who are anticipating a resurgence in occupation need to consider what a period of inactivity may have lead to.’
BSG, he explained, can survey an office/hotel premises and prioritise what needs to be done to get things up and running safely:
- Legionnaires considerations in light of whether the approved code of procedure has been followed
- Testing of life safety systems (fire alarm, emergency lighting and active systems)
- Water treatment of any closed heat/cooling circuits
- Many other aspects of MEP systems that BSG are aware of and can schedule out and assist with
Syntegra Director of Ecology Trish Holden, believes having more people work from home in future can, in turn, benefit our biodiversity by decreasing overall disturbance.
‘A full lock down has certainly benefited many species, with less cars on the roads, mammals and birds are having less road deaths, hopefully in some cases allowing for species numbers to increase by movement of these species without increased mortality,’ she said.
‘For birds, having less noise about is actually beneficial for various species as they are not having to compete with traffic/human noise. Calls often get drowned out by ambient noise and often males have had to change calls to compete with noise pollution.
‘We all have seen the photos of the Venice canals, and no doubt the decreased recreational use in our own streams, rivers and various watercourses, has allowed for cleaner, less turbid waters, ensuring benefits to the resident aquatic life.’
The UN has announced that 2020 is the year for world leaders to make and review policies to halt habitat and biodiversity decline. ‘In the wake of this crisis, it is certainly allowing us to reflect on what we hold as important and value, and this reconnection in nature will hopefully highlight the need and desire to save our natural environment and biodiversity,’ Trish added.
Alan believes old business models and strategies will need to be adapted with innovative new ways of thinking and working if they are to succeed once UK plc reopens for business.
‘Those that innovate and produce services and technology now to adapt to these evolved and new emerging markets will thrive. There will be a lot of opportunity and this is exciting but daunting.
‘’Like many business owners up and down the country, I’ve been analysing forecasts and watching for any clues of what the future really will hold. My favourite quote about forecasting comes from Warren Buffett, who perhaps knows markets better than anybody else. “Forecasts may tell you a great deal about the forecaster; they tell you nothing about the future.” So, I found hope in the responses of GPT-2, a “large-scale unsupervised language model”—in lay terms, a smart robot in Silicon Valley. Without all the prejudices of humans, the GPT-2 makes three predictions:
- There will be a lot of turbulence in the world economy.
- There will be major changes in China.
- President Donald Trump will be defeated in the general election.’
All that will play out one way or another in the longer term. Meantime, Syntegra Group directors welcome the opportunity to enter dialogue with existing clients about developing their services or new customers keen to utilise our expertise and start the journey into new normality and the opportunities it undoubtedly presents to forward-thinking organisations keen to lead by innovative, sustainable example.