Steves Blog

Living and Working Smarter in Intelligent Cities

31 May 2015

This year's British Council for Offices annual conference was held in Chicago - the Windy City, although on this occasion it was more inclement than windy with temperatures hovering between a modest 6-8°C.

Every other year, the BCO conference is held overseas in a City with interesting and innovative offices, and in this instance high rise structures. In 1885, Chicago became home to first skyscraper, The Home Insurance Building, which was nine stories tall. The Wrigley Building was the first air conditioned building and the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is currently the tallest building in Western Hemisphere, with a 110 stories overlooking four states - Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The themes for this year's conference was around City life both in terms of the working environment and modern living behaviours. We had three excellent plenary sessions on Liveable Cities, Intelligent Cities and Working Smarter.

Liveable Cities focused on the fact that two decades ago people and businesses were moving out of town to get away from crowded, polluted busy city centres. Today, however, people are embracing what our cities have to offer and are opting to live and work more centrally. This is largely to do with lifestyle and leisure facilities that are becoming the norm in our cities – these will only grow with the rise of Tech Hubs, such as the one in Shoreditch and the Silicon Roundabout in Stratford.

Intelligent Cities was centred around how Chicago’s experience has influenced the planning of cities around the world and how the collection of Big Data will affect the cities and city regions are designed and serviced. It is clear from the analysis of Big data that as cities are becoming more liveable, so people are less inclined to move out.

The final session on working smarter reflected the extraordinary pace of technology and innovation that new technology is driving. Despite this rise in the use of technology, people who work like to do so with other people – the concept of the virtual office has not quite materialised. What is becoming more prevalent is working environments for start up and smaller business with social hubs that enable people from different backgrounds to interact, share ideas and develop new products and services. It is clear that the office remains the best mechanism to facilitate this interaction, albeit less structured, more informal and relaxed.

This conference was of particular interest as CPC has recently embarked on a number of high profile schemes concerned with the above topics from project managing a state of the art Big Data Institute for the University of Oxford to developing a number of Social Hubs in environments where academics with bright ideas interact with business people with the acumen and funding to bring their ideas into being.

We recognise that amidst these changing times and a smart technology revolution, people continue to want to be around people - this not only supports the fact that we are a sociable species it also confirms that human interaction is the ultimate source of idea generation and realisation – the essence of living and working smarter in intelligent cities.

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