Next X’s Top 10 Green Towns and Cities outside of London - Our Thoughts
Last week, we revealed the top 10 list of highly desirable green places to live and work outside of the capital using our new location analysis tool, Next X. We spoke to colleagues from across BNP Paribas Real Estate UK to find out what they thought of the rankings generated by Next X and what it means for the future of the workplace.
Ranked third on the list, Glasgow has a high number of BREEAM-rated office buildings and is well on its way to becoming a greener city. “It’s really encouraging to see Glasgow doing so well, but not a surprise in my view”, Gary Cameron, Head of Scotland comments.
“The city has been positively transforming itself from its industrial heritage and perceived ‘gritty’ image into a modern cosmopolitan city.
The legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the major City Deal commitments are now supporting some of Scotland’s largest regeneration projects, transforming large parts of what was previously considered undesirable areas.
As Glasgow prepares to welcome COP26, it is positive to see that the city council continues to be on the front foot when it comes to tackling aspects like air pollution. The city low emission zone, which will ban polluting vehicles entering the city centre from 2023, is well ahead of most regions.
Along with access to talent and cost competitiveness, ESG is now dominating corporate occupier focus when looking for their next workspace and Glasgow can deliver on all fronts. In contrast to some competing constrained cities, the regeneration and availability of sites in Glasgow is allowing occupiers to deliver best in class new green spaces for its workforce. Evidenced very clearly by the commitment from Barclays, JP Morgan, Virgin Money and Morgan Stanley committing to over 1 million sq ft of new best in class workspace.
Glasgow has continually ranked high on commercial, leisure and retail offerings. The next challenge is to deliver city centre living markets to match, which will help to consolidate Glasgow as a great place to both work and live. Being a greener city can only help with this.”
In fifth positon, Bristol continues to be a popular city for professionals to relocate to. Josh Gunn, Head of the Bristol office and Industrial & Logistics South West says, “Bristol has so much going for it so I am not surprised to see it ranked as a highly desirable green place to live and work.
It’s a really vibrant, multi-cultural city offering lovely surrounding towns and villages, attractive to professionals looking to re-locate outside of London. The pandemic has made families and professionals reconsider their lifestyle and many are seeking outdoor space and larger living accommodation to adapt to a hybrid working model. Bristol offers more affordable homes within easy reach of the capital, with direct links to London Paddington.
The city has done well in attracting innovative businesses and talent, which is also a result of two well established universities. I think the city has all the right ingredients to continue to grow and offer a highly attractive place to live and work.”
But what about the rest of the UK? How can towns and cities attract talent and businesses? Stephen Wolfe, Head of Commercial thinks it will be down to locations that have a strong offering of sustainable offices with great facilities.
“ESG and the return to the office are the most talked about topics right now, and both are very much interlinked. COVID-19 has made senior business leaders think carefully about the purpose of the office and how it is used. Going forward, the office certainly has a place in supporting business’ success yet it needs to offer much more than desks. The focus will be on creative working environments that offer a reason to come together and collaborate in person.”
When it comes to the construction of and investment in office buildings, will we see a shift in demand to more sustainable, green buildings?
“In addition to both the ‘activity’ and ‘inactivity’ brought on by the commencement of a global pandemic just over a year ago, we have witnessed the accelerated action on Climate Change, an ESG boom and a clear global convergence on Net Zero. As the return to office gathers momentum and in the year of COP26 in Glasgow, it is worth noting the fundamental visible shift across the nation towards business’ focus on sustainable investment opportunities and how ESG is front and centre of informed decision making within the real estate sector”, comments Jonathan Hale ESG and Sustainability Director.
“Landlords and occupiers are beginning to align to the line of thought that a sustainable office building is no longer just a ‘nice to have’; instead the green premium is evermore becoming a reality as green buildings certified to industry standards (which include BREEAM In-Use, LEED, Fitwel, Well and RESET) are seen as a safer, resilient and more attractive option. With certified green buildings being subject to both stringent and tangible sustainable assessment criteria, their advantages can often lead to reduced maintenance, reduced environmental impact, increased occupier comfort and higher returns per sq ft office space.
Certified green buildings are also more appealing to occupiers that increasingly want to ensure that their workplace strategy aligns with their brand values. Given ESG is top of the agenda for most businesses, occupiers want to make sure that the buildings from which they operate support their corporate ambition.
Sustainable buildings also support a healthier working environment. From the many facets which determine a certified green building, better air-quality is often central to most external assessment criteria. With businesses planning for the return to the office as restrictions ease, the importance of maintaining a safe working environment and reducing spread of COVID-19 and new variants has never been more important. Looking ahead, locations that can offer a healthy supply of green, sustainable workspace will no doubt have a strong competitive advantage in securing business and talent over the short medium and long term.”
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