Although buildings are made of bricks and mortar or more recently steel and glass, it is the way people relate to property in their communities which makes it distinctive.
So, at British Land, we focus on creating Places People Prefer. If we provide places that directly address those things that are important to people – where they can interact with their friends, families and colleagues, pleasant, resource efficient environments, with plenty of natural daylight, attractive walkways to get to work, showers and facilities to enable active lifestyles, green spaces and lots of amenities – we can make a positive impact on people’s everyday lives, at the same time as growing our business.
If we contribute positively to local economies through local procurement and employment, as well as through our basic values, we will continue to win the support of local authorities and communities, which is critical to our ability to build new buildings.
As the Finance Director at British Land, I’ve got a responsibility to protect our financial resources and safeguard returns for our investors. But, a successful business is about much more than simply delivering financial returns. It’s clear that, in the long run, if we want to continue to deliver good returns for shareholders, we need to ensure that we play our part in supporting communities and preserving the environment.
Our Whiteley Shopping Centre in Hampshire provides an interesting example of where local factors considered at an early stage of development are bearing fruit for the local community, as well as for us and our shareholders. It is difficult to imagine Whiteley being the success it is today without its popular local retailers, public spaces where people connect with each other, wildlife sculptures, pedestrian routes and other amenities.
So, by making places that work better for people, we can make our business better too. But we need to be bold. We need to find out what really will make a positive difference to people’s lives. University of Zurich economists, Stutzer and Frey, found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. So, what does this mean for how we design and manage our buildings?
For a start, it makes pleasant pedestrian routes and good public transport infrastructure clear priorities, alongside on-site facilities such as cycle spaces, lockers and showers. It supports our focus on local employment and means we need to continue collaborating with local authorities and other local partners.
Would Regent’s Place have gone from being ‘fringe’ West End to the premier London office location it is today if we had not partnered with Camden Council and Transport for London to improve local links, particularly across the Euston Road, a physical and social barrier for local residents and businesses?
It is also important that we consider not just the here and now, but the future; that we create places which will stand the test of time and environments which are sustainable for people to enjoy. By doing so, we will not only protect our business long term, but change people’s lives for the better, doing right for future generations.