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05May94 UK: CALL FOR RETHINK ON 'GOLD-PLATED' OFFICES.

Leading developers, designers and engineers are calling for a radical rethink of design practices to avoid building 'gold plated', over-specified offices.A 12-strong working party of experts formed by the British Council of Offices claims a few key reforms could cut up to 10 per cent from the cost of future offices.And this week it published a report designed as a new draft standard specification for urban offices.The working party says the late 1980s office boom prompted a rise in specifications - and so costs - in the mistaken belief they provided better value for investors. Buildings offered greater flexibility, but this flexibility is now too costly to build in, run and maintain.Chris Stickland of developer Greycoat, who heads the working party, said: 'We wanted a change after the hype of the 1980s. This meant getting back to basics and making sure the performance of an office building is matched by its real, rather than perceived, needs.'The biggest savings of up to 10 per cent could come from rethinking the advanced building control systems - mainly the heating and ventilating - installed in modern offices. The group claims their full potential is rarely called on to service the actual number of workers in buildings.A key recommendation is to set new industry norms for occupancy levels, in line with the actual number of workers in buildings. At present this stands at around one person for every 10 sq m, BCO recommends one person to 14 sq m.The guidance also argues that floor loading tolerance should fall back in line with British Standard requirements, away from an industry norm which almost doubled during the 1980s office boom. Reducing structural demands would save around 1 per cent.The BCO working party includes developers Stanhope, engineer Ove Arup, designers Building Design Partnership through to cost consultant Gardiner and Theobald and property agent Richard Ellis. CONSTRUCTION NEWS