An opportunity to rethink the shape of our cities by Grayling Properties MD Tim Cahill. This article first appeared in the Business Post. 

While offices won’t disappear, the move to remote working means there is now a chance to put people and sustainability at the heart of urban planning.

Ireland’s cities have been greatly affected by the pandemic and that has raised questions about how we can repurpose our urban areas to provide a more rounded working experience.

Demand for physical offices may not reduce, but existing spaces could be used differently.

With companies allowing for a mixture of in-office and remote working, a new model of the blended office should emerge meaning fewer people in offices and more space for individual workstations.

Post-Covid, people will likely work three to four days in the office instead of five, but office life will not disappear. In fact, it will remain central to a company’s ability to drive culture, productivity, idea generation and morale.

The average floor space currently allowed for employees is between ten and 12 square metres each. In the post-pandemic working world, this could increase to between 15 and 20 square metres in larger companies.

For smaller companies, shared settings such as co-working spaces will come more to the fore. The pandemic also raises the issue of the need for “virtual offices” within the home.

The government has published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy to make remote working a permanent option for life after the pandemic. This will bring with it the evolution of the home office. Some residential developers are already responding, including designated spaces for offices in homes at the planning and development stages.

High-end apartment schemes are also likely to offer significant work-from-home facilities to attract buyers and renters working remotely some or all of the time.

For cities, this time is pivotal. To turn a crisis into an unprecedented opportunity, we need to rethink the shape of our cities.

First off, we need to look at people. It is only by understanding how people move and live in a city that we can decide their future.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the “15-minute city”, the idea that everyone living in a city should have access to essential urban services such as schools, culture and retail within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.

Paris is committed to creating such a city, or rather a multitude of neighbourhoods within the city, that will put people at its heart.

Transport and connectivity is an important part of this vision – most importantly, the move from private car use to walking, cycling and public transport.

The mandatory provision of car parking spaces in Dublin city centre is not only driving up the cost of property developments, but also bringing more cars into the city centre.

Car-parking provision in larger cities should be minimised or preferably eliminated, particularly in highly accessible areas where public transport systems are located close by.

At the same time, large-scale and public transport projects need to be prioritised. A step in the right direction is the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035 and plans for the MetroLink, BusConnects and the expansion of Dart/Luas commuter services.

Ultimately, in order for our cities to recover and rebuild from Covid-19, we must address long-standing vulnerabilities and ensure that resilience is front and centre, reshaping urban life in a sustainable and people-centric way.

This article ‘An opportunity to rethink the shape of our cities’ by Grayling Properties MD Tim Cahill first appeared in the Business Post.

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