DUBLIN: Resilience and Inspiration

7 - 9 June, Dublin 2023

What we learned from the BCO Annual Conference 2023

The BCO’s 30th Annual Conference attracted over 800 key players from all parts of the office industry to the thriving city of Dublin. The three-day event included an exciting programme of keynotes, plenaries, seminars and tours. The programme emphasised the importance of harnessing the new role of the office to support resilience and provide inspiring places for people and society to thrive. Here are our key takeaways…

Dublin: a city transformed

“Dublin, with its rich architectural heritage, and its remarkable transformation over the past two decades, serves as the perfect backdrop for our conference this year,” said Despina Katsikakis, Conference Chair and Senior Vice President of the BCO. Davina Saint, Director of the Irish National Assets Management Agency, has witnessed the phenomenal growth in the Irish market first hand, and her opening speech focused on how this transformation has impacted corporates. Saint also commented on the value of the office environment in enabling people, particularly more junior employees, to build the ‘social capital’ needed to progress in their careers.

The value of placemaking

Place has always defined the economic value of real estate, but there is now a real recognition that placemaking is essential for offices, cities and communities to thrive. Three major developers – Kevin Nowlan, Hibernia; Brian Moran, Hines, and Niall Gaffney, IPUT – discussed how they have addressed the challenge of balancing the cost of delivery with the investment in creating an experience and generating social value. “You don’t just need money, you need vision,” said Gaffney. Nowlan added, “As a landlord, you must also be a curator.”

Navigating business and politics

Guiding delegates through the maze of recent political and economic upheaval, two expert commentators: Pippa Crerar, Political Editor of The Guardian and Simon Jack, Business Editor at the BBC. The upside? According to Jack, “The good that business can do has finally been recognised.”

Reworking the workplace

Andy McBain, Natwest; Paul Casey, IBM, and Vernon Blunt, Ericsson, formed a panel of occupiers to explore the purpose of their offices within an ecosystem of wider places to work. They discussed how to balance new priorities: attracting and engaging talent, leveraging new technology and data, and delivering ESG targets. Casey commented, “Flexibility has allowed us to recruit people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to hire.”

A new world emerging

Indy Johar called for a radical redefinition of value for real estate, along with fresh approaches to ownership and regulation. “We need to transform the nature of what we think are assets and how we finance them,” he said. He pointed to New York’s High Line as potentially the best real estate deal ever done. A park, that cost £184m dollars to build, and generated £3.48 billion in land value uplift.

The BCO’s response to current challenges

Reflecting the uncertain times in which we are living and working, this year’s seminars took a slightly difference approach. They provided a forum for more intimate exploration of the future BCO research agenda to address the key challenges of the economy, business, technology and ESG and how they impact all aspects of the office sector. Early thinking on each of these themes will be published this summer.

Silicon Docks and beyond

Delegates also had the opportunity to explore the city’s rich architectural heritage, the regeneration of the historic docklands and the headquarters of innovative global companies such as Meta, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Salesforce. We partied at the Guinness Storehouse, which brings to life the history, heart and soul of one of Ireland’s finest exports.

Investing in young talent

The BCO’s fast growing NextGen community played an important role in this year’s conference. The BCO was thrilled to welcome 140 NextGen members – all under the age of 35 – to the event, where they enjoyed a series of dedicated events and networking opportunities, alongside the core programme.

A focus on mental health and wellbeing

Mental health and wellbeing remain front of mind in the world of work, and the wider office sector. Throughout this year’s event, the BCO chose to represent Samaritans. The charity provides free support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Annual Cycle Challenge saw riders cover 280 miles in over 3 days, raising £21,967 for Samaritans. They surpassed the £20,000 fundraising target, thanks to the support of more than 300 individuals.

For more conference highlights, check out the hashtag #BCOconference on the BCO’s Instagram and Twitter feeds. You can view the official photo album here.

Next stop, Birmingham

Next year’s BCO Annual Conference will take place in Birmingham, in Spring 2023. The UK’s second largest city is set for a bold reinvention over the next 20 years. Offices have a pivotal role to play in its growth. Chairing the 2024 Conference will be Peter Crowther, Property Director at Bruntwood SciTech, current Junior Vice President of the BCO.

Tickets will go on sale for BCO members in November 2023 and will be available to the general public in January 2024.