When you consider the myriad of changes in the requirement for commercial property in recent years, a common goal, for both building designers, developers and their clients, has to be one of long-term flexibility.
Along with the change in working styles and patterns, which now prevent many workers becoming wedded to one building or office space, there is a marked increase in the turnover of commercial property to let. There have also been a lot of vacant properties in recent years - victims of the recession and its hangover.
Businesses come and go, staff numbers change and the needs of the workers can often change too so the script for what is required of an individual commercial property can be rewritten almost overnight.
Mixed-use buildings are certainly on the rise - or at least the requirement for the opportunity is. There are more and more buildings, both in town centres and in out of town developments, that are rented by a mix of tenants operating across a variety of sectors. Retail sits cheek to jowl with commercial while residential and leisure lie above.
At Saracen, we are introducing the option of mixed use into our designs at the client's behest and, increasingly, at our own suggestion. In the current climate, there is much to be said for taking a fluid approach to design and removing any likely restrictions, including anything that might make a building more difficult to rent out. If you design a building with the potential to be mixed use then you automatically increase its rentability and give your client more options to play with.
The key lies in planning and design that allows for some adaptability of purpose. A client may initially have the idea that the building is purely commercial but if planning and approvals can be obtained for a bar or restaurant on the ground floor, for instance, and including that option makes it a more attractive leasing prospect then it is better to design to countenance that possibility.
Flexibility is key to the success of all of us, ultimately. We are very mindful of the environment that we operate in and we have adapted our own service offering over the years to ensure that our clients' needs our met. By being aware of the financial climate, staying on top of the legalities and knowing the market, we can design and refurbish buildings that are relevant to both the client and the end user and so won't stay untenanted for long.
If you allow for that very flexibility in the early design stages, the client isn't boxed into a corner and is less restricted in the tenants he or she can let out various parts of the building to. Ultimately, it gives added value to the project and minimizes risk.