The community of the future will be more smartly and compactly planned, benefiting both work-life balance and the environment. So what does this mean for your clients?
What is a 15-Minute City?
The 15-Minute City is an urban planning concept – the brainchild of French academic Carlos Moreno. The idea is that work, shops, entertainment, education and healthcare should all be accessible within 15 minutes of where people live, either on foot or by bicycle.
Essentially, it means that the city is decentralised: it becomes a conglomerate of villages, each with its own car-free green spaces, homes, mixed-use spaces and flexible workplaces.
With an end to long commutes in sight, partly thanks to the effects of Covid-19 its acceleration of the trend for hybrid working, dormitory towns that previously emptied during the day will become vibrant communities. In turn, this will have environmental benefits as carbon emissions are reduced.
How does flexible workspace fit into the equation?
Flexible workspaces are set to play a major role in the real life development of the 15-Minute City. As hybrid working becomes the new norm, the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model – which allows employees ongoing access to a company HQ, as well as the option of working at a flexspace closer to home – could make the 15-Minute Commute a very real possibility for huge numbers of workers.
According to Mark Dixon, Founder and Chief Executive of IWG, we’re likely to see an acceleration of the shift away from big city centres to the suburbs and beyond. Consequently, demand for workspace closer to people’s homes is likely to continue rising, representing new opportunities for brokers.
Where is it happening?
In the UK, IWG’s workspaces outside London’s orbital M25 motorway surged in popularity during the pandemic, with towns on the outskirts of the capital emerging as working ‘hot spots’. Meanwhile, demand for space in the City of London dropped by 26%.
In the USA, Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development has announced that it is exploring the 15-Minute City concept as a potential framework for its roadmap for the future. New York mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan has made the 15-Minute City a key focus of his candidacy.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo made the 15-Minute City a central plank of her election campaign last year, and is currently engaged in an “ecological transformation” of the French capital into a collection of neighbourhoods. She has increased the number of cycling routes and begun a project to create more green spaces. The huge Place de la Bastille, once a major traffic interchange, for example, is now an increasingly verdant, pedestrianised area. “Paris is capable of inventing a new history without forgetting its past,” says Hidalgo.
Across the globe, many other cities are working on developing the 15-Minute concept. Its environmental and wellbeing benefits feel more important than ever as the world begins to contemplate new ways of living, post-pandemic.
Living more locally
Life during lockdown also seems to have given many people a greater appreciation of their local area, and a desire to spend more time there. In a survey of workers by IWG last November, 77% said a place to work closer to home would be a must-have for their next job move.
“People want to work close to where they live,” says Dixon. “The most valuable real estate in the world may well be in Gerrards Cross [a Buckinghamshire town just beyond the M25], not Central London.” In the last two years, almost all new IWG centres have been opened in non-city environments and regions away from major urban areas. Compared to before the pandemic, demand for IWG office space in suburban areas rose by 32% in the first quarter of 2021. Interest in rural office space increased by 20% over the same period.
Doug Demers, Senior Managing Principal at B+H Architects, was asked by IWG to look at the implications of the 15-Minute City. He says we are likely to look back on the Covid-19 pandemic and see it as the catalyst that set this revolution in motion. “People may have discovered their local restaurants recently during lockdown, but they’re going to want more,” Demers explains. “For example, we need to have great flexible workspaces available within this 15 minute circle of where people want to be. There’s tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs.”