New hubs

Office kit turns empty spaces into work stations

The kit can be adapted for specific needs

A new-style portable office has been developed which could be used to transform unused public spaces – such as shopping centre units – into out-of-town hubs.

The timber-based kits have been designed in various shapes and sizes to be installed in community spaces as part of the NearHome project in response to changing working patterns.

A toolkit including the plans will be made available to businesses and construction firms.

The project, supported by £250,000 in Scottish Government funding, is designed to align with the emerging 20-minute neighbourhood approach to city planning that has gained momentum during the pandemic.

It will also offer a solution for buildings that previously may have been considered too difficult or costly to retrofit.

Sustainability is also a core element of the design, with a kit made from Scottish timber that can be easily deconstructed and re-used if required. Increased use of homegrown timber – across all areas of construction – could have a significant impact on the sector’s carbon footprint by reducing the reliance on imported materials and making the most of natural resources.

Lynsey Brydson, innovation manager at Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), said: “Covid-19 has caused a significant shift in working patterns and this approach to office design could be transformational in providing commuters with an alternative to heading into the city centre for work.

“Retrofitting is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to improving the carbon footprint of our built environment, but this sustainable approach is designed with low carbon materials and can be applied to older or unused buildings which would typically not be considered for office space.

“Using modern methods of construction, the design is easily replicated with the majority of the building work done in a quality-controlled, offsite environment. Throughout this initial stage of the project, we have already seen the benefits of collaboration, with multiple partners helping to create the design for an optimum work environment.”

NearHome office costs are designed to be in line with typical fit-out spend, with added benefits in terms of sustainability and a design fit for the future workforce.

Various experts have been consulted on the plans, from workplace designers and lighting specialists as well as a professor of immunology from Edinburgh Napier University who provided guidance on minimising Covid-19 risks.

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South Lanarkshire Council and Smart Sustainable East Kilbride are also supporting the initiative, with input from infrastructure experts, the Scottish Futures Trust.

A pilot test site is currently being identified in East Kilbride, which will be transformed into the first office space to be constructed based on the design.

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said: “For those who can work from home, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely create a longer-term shift in working and travel patterns.

“If harnessed, it can be beneficial for local communities, our environment and in supporting Scotland’s world leading target of net zero emissions target by 2045.

“Working from quality spaces closer to home can offer greater flexibility and work-life balance, whilst reducing transport emissions and creating local economic opportunities – which is all part of the Scottish Government’s ambition for 20-minute neighbourhoods.

“That’s why we’re investing £250,000 to support the NearHome project by the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

“Sustainable building practices coupled with modular designs will offer flexible applications in many existing buildings – enabling retrofitting and reuse over new building projects. I look forward to seeing how the toolkit benefits building retrofitting projects across Scotland.”

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