Imagining the circular office

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JLL imagines a world in which buildings become indefinite material banks with sustained value. And talks about embarking on a circular economy transformation of its own.

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Imagining the circular office

Imagine your office as a bank vault of materials – the walls, the floors, the ceilings and everything inside it become banks of concrete, stonework, glass, steel, metal and other materials.

In this vision, buildings would be valuable assets even after they became obsolete. Every bit of manufactured capital would have a future value, as well as a past and present value. As a landlord, your buildings wouldn’t just be valued on the basis of their land value, the tenant covenant, and the value of other comparable buildings, but also on the latent value of the materials banked within them. As a tenant, the same would also be true of your fit-out, furnishings and electronic infrastructure. Indeed, you would view these future material banks as a value on your balance sheet.

This vision is based on the ‘circular economy’, which aims to eliminate waste by finding ways of retaining more of the value of the material, energy, and labour inputs that go into products. It’s a trend that is beginning to infiltrate UK real estate and its occupiers.

JLL’s circular economy journey

At JLL we are at the start of our circular economy journey. We’ve set a high-level target that, by 2020, we will support the UK’s transition to a circular economy through our services, our workforces and our public affairs activities. That target is shaping our focus and energies. Firstly, we want to walk to the talk and test circular innovations and cost savings in our own workplaces. That is one of the key reasons we’ve become signatories to BiTC’s Circular Office campaign – to learn from others and to collaborate on shared opportunities.

Secondly, we are drawing from innovative work we are already doing with our leading clients. As property managers on Regent Street in London for The Crown Estate, who aim to remove all carbon and waste from their business by 2030, we are working with consultants to explore partnership opportunities with furniture and glass remanufacturers on circular economy pilots in central London. In Scotland, we have provided planning advice to the University of St Andrews to help meet its goal of becoming the UK’s first energy carbon neutral university. This includes the circular reuse of a former papermill site as a new biomass energy centre and hub of a district heating network at its Guardbridge campus.

Achieving ambitions

The construction sector and commercial property occupiers are resource-hungry and responsible for 64% of all waste generated in the UK. If the sector does not want to be exposed to severe resource scarcity, then it will have to deploy circular economy solutions at pace over the forthcoming decade.

Ultimately, the big opportunity for JLL to catalyse change comes through our influencing role, at scale. Globally, we manage 400 million square metres of buildings on our clients’ behalf and we advised on the construction or refurbishment of 42,500 projects or buildings. That’s a huge opportunity for us to start integrating circular economy thinking and innovations into our day to day activities with clients. That is our ambition. Let’s change today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Article written by Sophie Walker, UK Head of Sustainability at JLL. This article was first published by Business in the Community on 6th July 2017.

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