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Takeaways from our 'Future Workspaces: The Sustainability Challenge' Event with Andy Burnham

Blog, Greater Manchester
Andy Burnham at Future Workspaces Sustainability Event

On 13rd October 2022, we held our second Greater Manchester Green Summit fringe event, in partnership with SSE Energy Solutions.

Hosted at Bruntwood Works’ Neo, we heard from keynote speaker Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, about the importance of getting people back into our town and city centres, amidst the cost of living crisis, and doing so in a sustainable manner.

Andy said: “It’s imperative now in the cost of living crisis to talk about communal spaces and bringing people together.” He went on to discuss the reduced cost of bus fares across the region for people using the buses on a casual basis and the move to a more sustainable fleet using electric and hydrogen vehicles.

The Mayor also complimented the motivation of Bruntwood and organisations across Greater Manchester to achieve ambitious net zero carbon targets and collaborate across industries to make that happen.

Future Workspaces: The Sustainability Challenge

Alex Edwards, Sustainability Director at Bruntwood, spoke about the sustainability challenges of the workplace in a hybrid world. Alex’s three key points focused on: 

  1. Evolving working patterns. To encourage people back into the office, we need to make spaces that they truly want to work in. People who like working from their office are 30% more likely to be connected to their business’s culture and 20% less likely to leave.

  2. Carbon emissions and the energy crisis. We need to retrofit existing buildings to ensure they are energy efficient and collectively reduce the property industry’s impact on the environment - a process that Bruntwood is deeply committed to.

  3. Commuting. We need to incentivise sustainable transport for people, which in turn could increase the number of people we see in our centres. One idea is that businesses could create ‘free travel Fridays’ - in collaboration with local councils, for instance - and provide the infrastructure that supports active travel like bike racks and showering facilities for employees.

Flexibility is Here to Stay

We heard from Neil Kirkby, Managing Director of SSE Energy Solutions, who provided an engaging talk that echoed some of Andy and Alex’s comments.

“Flexibility is here to stay! To encourage people into offices, we need incentives to promote behaviour change,” said Neil. It’s about how we work with flexibility to encourage our employees to use the workspaces that are available to them. In the cost of living crisis, some could save up to £28 per week by using their employer’s workplace, according to The Times.

Practical Solutions Supporting Businesses to Reach Net Zero

Jonny Sadler, Strategic Decarbonisation Manager at Electricity North West and previously Director of the Manchester Climate Change Agency, talked about the practicalities of taking people on the journey to net zero together.

“Businesses are up for the net zero challenge - often, they just don’t know where to start”, said Jonny. “They need guidance, support and funding to get there.” That’s where collaboration and partnerships between local government, agencies, organisations, universities and community groups add real value.

The Power of Plant Life in the Workplace

The final speaker on stage was Richard Rowlands, Managing Director of I Want Plants, that works with Bruntwood on a regular basis to design, implement and manage biophilia across our workspaces, such as living walls.

Richard gave an insightful talk about how their unique HYVERT wall technology offers quantifiable evidence of the impact of biophilia in and around the workplace, including:

  • Improvements in biodiversity

  • Enhanced psychological wellbeing

  • Improved energy performance

  • Noise abatement

  • Rainwater utilisation

  • Effective carbon reduction

We are currently working with I Want Plants on two living wall features at Foundation (Altrincham) and West Village (Leeds).

Watch the event recording here.

Find out more about how we approach sustainability at Bruntwood here.

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