MIPIM. Day one…meeting Lord Rogers.

As I’m sure you’ll know already (!) L&H are flying both our UK and International flags in Cannes this week at the annual MIPIM property conferenceand what an event this is! I had no appreciation for the sheer scale of this – it’s huge. Today was about understanding the event to maximise value over the coming days, whilst also attending a couple of very informative conference sessions (more on those later).

BMI Baby put on an excellent flight (incl complementary breakfast reception) from East Midlands to Nice and the flight, although far from full, was dominated by Mipim attendees and “Team Nottingham” (part of Invest in Nottingham). Therefore the ‘networking’ kicked off at 7am and I’ve just got back to my hotel (I figured that 15 hours non-stop wasn’t a bad effort for the ‘warm-up’ day!) – Although I know the next 2 days are going to be intense.

We arrived at lunchtime and as I entered the main area I heard a furore of activity and noise – it was the celebrations for the arrival of the “Cycle to Cannes” participants – that looked hard work! At the front, leading the applause was Lord Richard Rogers – a career-long idol of mine and a truly inspirational contemporary Architect. I’ve studied many of his buildings and his 1999 Government endorsed publication ‘Towards and Urban Renaissance‘ was a core element of my University Dissertation. Great to finally meet him…

Amongst the extensive networking today, I attended two informative conference sessions;

At the Manchester Stand, Sir Howard Bernstein of Manchester City Council introduced Chris Ogsleby (Chief Exec of Bruntwood) and Mike Ingall (Chief Exec of Allied London) to talk about ‘Fostering Innovation’. Tom Bloxham MBE of Urban Splash was also there at the back – in his Trilby Hat. The talk was about Manchester’s Airport City Enterprise Zone and Allied London presented a new concept for an Office model. This is essentially a carefully serviced/ designed, technology focussed, Empty Box/ Shell – no fit out, at all. The intention being for end-users/ tenants to then build their own internal space which would meet their specific needs. This idea is borne out of the need to provide for companies who have increasingly diverse needs/ requirements for ‘space’ now and enabling an individual Brand to be integrated more fully. An interesting idea – although when put into the context of the next session I attended on Sustainability, it may become increasingly difficult to realise in time perhaps?

The second session was titled “Are we too broke for Sustainability” and featured Chris Grigg (CEO British Land). The focus was really on how the private investment market feels about sustainability today, especially in terms of investor understanding/ support and the effect on rental returns generated against ever increasing capital costs. The talk was mainly on Office and Retail sectors – where end users are diverse and demand different things in the ‘space’ they choose occupy (as above). Other than acknowledging that Legislative Governance is now forcing the agenda (and rightly so!), there seemed to be a view that Sustainability is on a “growing trend – which is most likely to continue to increase”. Therefore it has to be integrated more fully into future projects. Although there still seems to be a sense of reticence towards sustainability in these developer sectors specifically.

With the increased detail and definition of BREEAM 2011 requirements, I think there is a valid question of; how can ‘mixed-use’ developments be designed to meet a standard when end-users/ occupiers are not known during the design stage and can vary hugely in terms of services usage? Developers want to be as flexible as possible in terms of the offer to ensure their investment provides maximum diversity? They also want to avoid any risk of over-specifying buildings. A standard office space occupier is very different now to that of a high-end technology/ research company. How can this issue be reconciled? There doesn’t appear to be a simple answer…

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