Commercial property: Tech transforms traditional tastes

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Edinburgh has a tech sector worth £1.14bn which has seen jobs increase over three times the UK average between 2014 and 2017.

This is an incredibly exciting time for the city as it transitions from a traditional hub for finance to a digital world-beater.

Although 62 per cent of Edinburgh’s tech community is satisfied with access to affordable workspace, one of the main challenges which now faces a burgeoning tech industry is the room to accommodate continued growth of the sector.

The key issue for Edinburgh is building enough new Grade A offices and refurbishing existing stock quickly enough to meet demand as companies are started and continue to grow.

There are speculative Grade A buildings in construction across Scotland, many of which are being built for functionality and with tech occupiers in mind.

These include Cadworks in Glasgow, expected to be the city’s most sustainable building once it is completed in 2020.

Spanning 94,000sq ft, it will feature Scotland’s first cycle ramp for direct access into the building for those arriving at work on two wheels.

If the way we travel to work has shifted, how we actually work has undergone a revolution in recent years.

Email, video conferencing or Skype, home-working and smart phones have altered the concept of nine-to-five working, making the office a much more fluid working environment.

In response, occupiers are being smarter about creating environments that fuel productivity and attract the right talent.

Build the right working environment and the office can be a crucial part of your recruitment battle.

Get it wrong and it can be a long-standing reminder of under-investment and lack of planning.

Especially true of Edinburgh, developing space to accommodate different ways of working has been a challenge which developers have met with relish.

With a myriad of young, ambitious companies in Edinburgh, demand for flexible space which allow firms to scale up as and when they need it has grown apace.

Great examples of this are Codebase – one of Europe’s biggest tech incubators – and Spaces Lochrin Square, which offers flexible co-working space in the heart of the capital.

Corporate occupiers in Edinburgh have also created agile workspaces which go beyond the traditional open-plan office, to take into consideration how people work in 2018 – quiet booths for confidential calls, collaboration areas, relaxation space, hot desks with laptop docking stations, inspirational zones and so on.

But this also means stripping back traditional ceiling tiles and dividers to meet modern tastes.

Increasingly we’re seeing “defurbished” stock come to the market with exposed services, allowing occupiers to make their own mark.

Once perhaps a mainstay of tech trailblazers alone, these stripped-back working environments are being embraced by the more conventional professional and financial sector businesses, showing that this isn’t a fad, but a complete culture change.

The future is certainly bright for Edinburgh as it transitions from a traditional city into a modern European capital packing a mighty punch – producing some of the most productive and profitable tech employers in the world.

But if we want to see Edinburgh really get up to speed, we need an even greater emphasis on nurturing this talented community and building the support mechanisms, and work spaces, for it to continue flourishing.

Alasdair Humphery is lead director at JLL Scotland