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News release


What would we do if we could start again with a blank canvas to design our cities / workplaces?

JLL research project, ‘Urban Canvas’ shares vision of a TEDxSydney survey.  More than half of all respondents still wanted a physical workplace (59%) but said they wouldn’t create CBD’s.

​Would we even build CBD’s if we had the chance to redesign our cities?  How different would our buildings be from the environments we have created now? These questions about workplaces, the built environment and city landscape were central to the conclusions in a new JLL White Paper.

Interestingly, if we were to start again, many people would not replicate the existing built environment.  Instead, 81% of participants in a JLL survey wanted multi-purpose structures and liked the concept of an eco-campus where individuals could live, work and play within one community.

More than half of all survey respondents (57%) wouldn’t create Central Business Districts (CBD’s) where the majority of business interactions occur.  Instead 78% of people wanted to create small self-sufficient communities where you could work and live, rather than commuting.

Through a partnership with TEDxSydney 2016, JLL tapped into the highly engaged TEDxSydney community for its ‘Urban Canvas’ research project which surveyed more than 200 professionals from 19 industries and conducted full-day workshops to explore issues around workplaces, buildings and cities.

The resulting JLL White Paper, ‘Is humanity the future architect?’ concludes that human interactions will ultimately shape the future of real estate.  The paper outlines a number of strategies for occupiers and landlords to prepare for workplace trends in 2050, including pro-working, robotics and use of virtual reality.

The findings?
  • The results were unanimous in their focus and priority on human connections and a desire to be closer to nature. 88% of respondents placed high or very high value on face-to-face interaction in the workplace of the future. The future will be characterised by buildings that open up to the environment around them, cities with more boulevards, town squares, public seating and tech-free zones to encourage human interaction;
  • 59% of respondents still wanted physical workspaces
  • 95% wanted built structures to be ‘smart’
  • 87% said they would have no need for a high-end ‘trophy’ workplace
FIVE key themes emerged when asking the TEDxSydney community to design their future, FOUR of which focused on human needs:​
  1. Human connections
  2. Nature and Human Sustainability
  3. Health and Wellness
  4. Social Consciousness
  5. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
Rajiv Nagrath - JLL’s Australian Head of Corporate Account Management​ said the research found that, despite technological advancements and the potential impacts of robotics and artificial intelligence, there was a desire for a future dependent on people, not machines.

Even though it was acknowledged that future technology would allow work to be done anywhere, 88% of respondents still placed high value on face-to-face interaction in the workplace of the future.

“While technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, our basic needs and wants of human connection remain consistent with what they were 100 years ago.

“There will still be a desire for continued human engagement, connected communities and workplaces that foster co-working and entrepreneurship,” Mr Nagrath said.

The implications for Buildings from the JLL Survey findings – Health & Wellness key themes:

The ‘Urban Canvas’ White Paper projects a vision of the future where buildings do more than function as places of work – they promote health and wellbeing.
Richard Fennell - JLL’s Australian Head of Property and Asset Management​ said, “The results unanimously focused on human connections and a desire to be closer to nature - 92% of respondents wanted to create a responsive workplace that adapts to enhance the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants.  It seems that amongst our condensed and densely populated skylines, the people living and working within them are craving more open spaces, more air, and more natural materials and environments.”

The Survey results found built structures would be ‘smart’, with 88% of respondents indicating they would capture data to allow adaption based on usage patterns.  86% of buildings would have environmental indicators including air quality, allergens and UV sunlight.  78% of respondents said they would incorporate 4D telepresence to allow seamless virtual collaboration in the workplace.  This would allow individuals a fully immersive experience, even though they weren’t physically present to be part of a meeting or collaborative session.

Mr Fennell said, “Buildings in 2050 will respond and adapt to the people within it. For example, when you enter a lobby, the building will receive a biometric reading of your heart rate, general health and even your age.  This information will be used to enhance your experience within the building, such as temperature, sound, smell and visual adjustments via implanted devices or wearable technology.

“The concept of the ‘internet of things’ is creating the ability to monitor systems and people far more widely than ever before. The challenge will be in aggregating that data and using it.

“Landlords, developers and property managers who fail to put data management at the top of the agenda will lose out to more forward thinking competitors who embed these systems in the fibre of a building.

“The large focus on human connections will see placemaking at the forefront of property management in the future.
Within five years, placemaking is likely to be a key differentiator amongst commercial assets – in 20 years it will define an asset,” said Mr Fennell.

The implications for Workplaces from the JLL Survey findings – the ‘office’ is not dead, but the traditional workplace will change:

It was clear from the Survey results that the office is not dead.  59% of respondents still saw the need for a physical workplace in 2050.  But they wanted a multi-purpose building rather than just offices.  81% of the TEDxSydney community envisaged a future of purely multi-purpose buildings, meaning the death of the traditional ‘office building’ as we know it.

Tim O’Connor – JLL’s Australian Head of Office Leasing​ said, “Property portfolios will be driven around short term opportunities rather than long term leases.  However, it will no longer be about just leasing space.  When constructing or refurbishing buildings, owners will need to consider how they are contributing to both the city as a whole and the community within and around it.

“Developments such as Barangaroo in Sydney are leading the way in creating the ‘campus’ of the future, providing residential, commercial and retail space amongst 100% publicly accessible parklands and community activated spaces,” said Mr O’Connor.

When looking specifically at how workplaces in the future would function, there was an emphasis on co-working with 88% of respondents indicating they would create a workplace that allowed people to work with other businesses and entrepreneurs.  84% would create a variety of workplaces for people to choose from and offer a high level of customer service and amenities (80%) such as a fitness centre, sleep pods and movie lounges.

Mr O’Connor said, “It seems certain the biggest issue, and opportunity, to face occupiers in the future is liquidity – of staff and of space.  That was one of the key findings from our survey of future workplaces.  The good news was that the workplace would remain essential in 2050 - it will undoubtedly look very different from today’s office environment.

“This trend is apparent now - larger tenants are already taking less space, not because they’ve reduced headcount but because they’re maximising efficiencies. They’re doing a lot more with less, and co-working will allow them to amplify that reduction.

“Flexible locations – like co-working spaces – will also become an integrated and essential component of real estate strategies of large companies. The predicted growth of contingent workers – alongside the development of technologies such as 4D telepresence allowing remote working - also has the potential to inversely impact headcount and, therefore, the space occupiers require,” said Mr O’Connor.

The JLL White Paper includes strategies for occupiers and landlords to prepare for workplace trends in 2050 such as: 

  • Experiment with pro-working
  • Boost your environmental indicators
  • Re-assess flexibility
  • Experiment with robots
  • Experiment with virtual reality
About the JLL and TEDxSydney Partnership:
Through a partnership with TEDxSydney 2016, JLL surveyed its highly engaged community that attended an event at the Sydney Opera House on 25 May 2016, to gain insights and forward looking views about the future of work.  Survey participants were asked to imagine creating places for people to work, live and play within the construct of a completely fresh slate - the planet Mars in 2050, made habitable for humans. The concept of Mars was used to give people a blank canvas and understand what they would create if they didn’t have the limitations of the existing built environment.