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Tap Those Cubic Feet: The Latest Cool Manchester Office Is A Big Shed

LR RDM Innovation Dock, Rotterdam.

Guts-hanging-out defurbs of 1960s office blocks, sand-blasted stone shells created in solid Victorian warehouses, shops becoming offices, cottages becoming offices, chapels becoming offices: the cool Manchester workplace has taken almost every conceivable form in the last five years. And now the cycle reaches its inevitable conclusion: huge sheds as offices.

JLL and Northern Quarter-based Hawkins\Brown say that the vast volumes created by warehouses' high ceilings, combined with adaptability, hold intrinsic appeal for creative industries. They suggest that repurposed industrial buildings are the new key to attracting knowledge economy occupiers.

The study (available here) is the first to analyse 30 successful industrial-to-commercial conversion projects from around the world. These include Manchester’s 200K SF The Sharp Project.

The analysis was also inspired by New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, now home to an ecosystem of a large number of innovative SMEs; and RDM Innovation Dock, Rotterdam, carved out of the former machine hall of the RDM shipyard. The insertion of a new ground floor, greenhouses and pods kept the original character untouched and created a unique place where the past meets the future, the report says.

New Lab, Brooklyn, Marvel Architects (Architecture)

JLL and Hawkins/Brown found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that moving from square to cubic feet changed everything. While the cost of industrial refurb is typically 11% above the cost of refurbishing an office building, when costs are analysed from a volume point of view they look like good value. Average construction costs were £7.18 per cubic foot, with individual building costs ranging from £2.85 to £16.52 per cubic foot.

“It’s a reminder that, as Manchester looks to attract and retain a diverse occupier base, it must offer a wide range of commercial space," JLL London Unlimited Head Michael Davis said.

Given the ability for unique buildings that boast awe-inspiring features to impact employee satisfaction and productivity, it’s easy to see how the appeal of these spaces could spread to other sectors, as well-being continues to rise to top of the corporate agenda in the U.K.

Hawkins\Brown head of workplace Nicola Rutt said: “Creativity and innovation are the key commodities in the workplace of today. Large spaces give us space to dream: we are more creative and better able to think in the abstract when we work in a room with a high ceiling."

To join the conversation on the future of Manchester office floorspace at Bisnow's Manchester Office Mania event on 8 November register here.