The NextGen International Taskforce is a collaboration between IE School of Architecture & Design and CPA NextGen, acting as a forum to exchange international talent and learn from discussions on the real estate industry and the built-environment. The group of NextGen professionals, which includes IE University alumni, meets bimonthly to discuss issues such as sustainability, inclusivity, technology, cities and wellbeing.
The overall goal of these conversations is to make voices heard and use collaboration to guide the future of cities. On September 21, 2021, 11 professionals from around the world met to discuss the future of working environments following remote or hybrid work.
Returning to Work in Different Markets
With individuals representing a range of countries such as Spain, the UK, South Africa, France and Canada, the discussion featured insights on the differing stances on returning to work environments in each market. Key ideas included why people return to office spaces or stay at home, the opportunities offered by new spaces, and reduced carbon footprints.
Belinda Duncan, one of the participants, spoke about how inoculation rates in Cape Town are not as high as the UK and Europe, so South African office attendance trends could change. Paula Gonzalez, in turn, shed light on how flexible working was already common in London before the pandemic, but COVID-19 accelerated it. In the case of Paris, where the office district is very much still empty, it is a question of creating an experience around the workplace when trying to encourage people back to the office. Montreal faces a similar problem in trying to encourage people go into the city center, but perceives it as an opportunity to create more green spaces.
The overall opinion was that the future of the offices is evolving across all different markets.
Health and Wellbeing
The theme of health and wellbeing arose when discussing working from home in contrast to office environments. It was the consensus that the two strongest drivers of returning to the office were mobility and distance to the office from workers' homes. Studies have shown that productivity increased at the expense of mental health when working from home; but the pandemic also contributed to this decline in mental health - it was not solely due to remote working.
Renewable Materials and Sustainable Cities
Another key topic of discussion were the need for investigations into the potential of timber, while recognizing the need to increase production without damaging the environment. Timber prices are rising, however, due to government sustainability demands for new constructions, as noted by Paula Gonzalez.
Hamish Crockett explained the embodied carbon standards in France and how developers are playing catch-up with regulations surrounding these new materials that have reduced embodied carbon. Additionally, many tools that can be used to measure embodied carbon were also mentioned. The French Government is also encouraging more experimental materials, but the question is their affordability, while for some new materials, demand greatly exceeds supply.
The group agreed there was a need to find alternatives to traditional brick and mortar. Belinda Duncan explained South Africa’s commitment to help local communities with the forestry industry. However, the country’s main priority at the moment is the housing crisis. It was also mentioned that in Spain, all public project competitions use local materials.
Diversity and Inclusion
Another focus of the meeting was diversity and inclusion. United Kingdom’s Emily Laverick asked the group to contribute to a guidebook on best practices for inclusive design and creative inclusive workplaces.
The group collectively aimed to make the real estate industry more inclusive and agreed that they should consider all types of disabilities. Hamish Crockett highlighted a recent Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners project whereby the team involved people with disabilities in the design process to expose current inadequacies and allow for improvements to be made.
If you would like to join the International Talent Taskforce, organized in collaboration by IE School of Architecture and Design and City Property Association (CPA), please get in touch with Charlie-Ann Cairns (email@example.com) or Maria Prieto-Moreno (firstname.lastname@example.org).