How physical space can improve our head space

Employment & Skills | Reports

As uncertainty about our home and work lives continues to reign, Liam Ronan-Chlond, the community engagement and social value lead at First Base, discusses why developers should be thinking much harder about what their schemes can offer their inhabitants.

News of the world’s first vaccine being rolled out in the UK is a step in the right direction for a more prosperous 2021. However, with a large majority of the workforce under the initial vaccination age, organisation’s will no doubt still be cautious about a full-scale return to the office come the New Year.

As developers of a new mixed-use development at the former Gardiner Haskins site in Bristol, which will include 242 new homes and 150,000 sq. ft. of flexible workspace, we’ve been thinking about what the new normal will look like as we prepare to bring the city’s Soapworks back to life.

Adapting to working from home has been a challenge for many, with increased workloads, the temptation to work longer hours and no disconnect between home and office life. And yet, we’re still enjoying those extra minutes in bed and less time spent commuting. Which is likely to be why a recent study by academics at Cardiff University and the University of Southampton showed that almost 90 percent of employees want to continue working from home in some capacity. However, sadly, it’s also predicted that in the UK next year, more than half a million more of us will experience poor mental health as a direct result of working from home compared to a normal year.

This dichotomy is something we’ve been working hard to overcome at the Soapworks and our other development projects.

Each of our new homes will measure above National Space Standards. This increased space means residents will have ample room to create designated work from home areas, which is especially important for family and friends living and working in the same space.

In addition, our high-performance buildings will all come with triple glazed windows to keep them cool in the summer and warmer in the winter and we’ve also carefully considered the orientation of the buildings and windows to maximise daylight, prevent overheating and minimise heating and lighting requirements. With limited winter daylight hours and heating bills going through the roof, this should provide some comfort to new residents.

More broadly, the Soapworks has been carefully designed to cater for flexible work-live lifestyles. Residents can work comfortably from home, hire a space to work at one of our co-working facilities, pop to their local café on the ground floor or simply enjoy working outside in fresh air.

Our mix of amenities will also support these work-live lifestyles, with plenty of spaces to eat, drink, meet and relax. This includes a diverse local independent food and drink offer which nods to the 91 different languages spoken in Bristol. We’ve also added a number of outdoor terraces for different uses; quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of the main square or leisure space for the sportier types among us.

Our round-the-clock offer means those who want to stay at the Soapworks after work can and we’ll regularly host music or theatrical performances in the central amphitheatre for everyone to enjoy. This vibrancy also creates natural surveillance, resulting in a safer environment or residents and visitors.

We believe health and wellbeing is hugely important and that the spaces we build must nurture mind, body and soul. We know working from home can be isolating and that increasingly, as the days get shorter and the nights draw in, it’s becoming harder to get outside for a break or to create time and space between work and home life. This is why we’re developing exciting food and drink offers, lunchtime leisure groups and post-work activities for residents to aid community spirit and integration.

Health and wellbeing is vital for all age groups so we will also have a range of play areas for children to let off steam, all important for those juggling work and childcare.

We want to give people a genuine reason to enjoy being outside every day and make the most of what’s on offer at the Soapworks.

With this in mind, we think there are plenty of opportunities for developers to review how they make places for people to live, work and socialise. Spaces should foster health and wellbeing, encourage a sense of community, collaboration and support people and the planet.

We believe the Soapworks will set a benchmark for building back better, showing how new developments in Bristol can support an inclusive and sustainable recovery by creating accessible places welcome to all.

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