87 bike spaces, no bikes

The humble cycle rack is becoming the modern day equivalent of the bricked up windows of grand Georgian houses. Both are responses to the fads and fashions of government policy: one a tax on windows; the other the widespread use of environmental ratings systems. Cycle racks’ prevalence across new developments of every kind, often in startling numbers, demonstrates the success of tools such as BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes in focusing attention on the environmental impact of buildings. Unfortunately, their ubiquity is also a sign of the dogmatic application of rigid systems that prioritise inflexible points-scoring mechanisms over features that would be of greater actual benefit. As rating systems come of age in the UK – BREEAM, the world’s first, was established in 1990 – it is clear they have made a great contribution to the sustainability of construction. But there are now signs of a backlash, with design teams complaining that they are more often tick-box exercises that suppress rather than drive innovation, conducted reluctantly and at breakneck speed to meet planning or funding requirements or for marketing purposes. In this piece for Building magazine, I investigated whether rating systems have outlived their usefulness – and discovered cycle racks in some very unlikely places.

“We don’t get into bidding wars with employees”

Are you sitting comfortably? More than three-quarters of people in the insurance sector are – according to the latest jobs market survey from Reed, which found that 77% considered themselves either secure or very secure in their jobs. Ironically, and unfortunately for their employers, that means they’re much more likely to be looking around for other opportunities. In this piece for Insurance Times, I looked at what firms are doing to hang on to their staff as the employment market picks up, from hard cash to monitoring for signs of the five-to-seven-year itch…

“The world isn’t going to get a lot easier for a long time”

The surveying profession has already weathered 145 years, even if few members of the general public could tell you exactly what they do. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (est.1868) has not, however, made it this far by being complacent. It commissioned a report looking at how the world around it might change over the next 30 years, which points out that 25 years ago, the Berlin wall was still standing, the internet was a distant dream and hardly anyone was talking about globalisation. Conversely, we have no idea which of our current preoccupations – from climate change and the collapse of global economic structures, to Building Information Modelling and higher university tuition fees – will have the greatest impact in the decades to come. For the danger-themed April issue of the RICS’ magazine, Modus, I interviewed six senior surveyors about the threats facing the profession, confronting prolonged recession, technological obsolescence and even extinction.