Q & A: Aidan Baker of BNP Paribas Real Estate
Aidan, what trends have you been seeing in the North East office market in 2022?
There continues to be a strong bias in demand for best-in-class accommodation, as employers strive to provide offices of the highest quality and offer employees an environment that is better than their ‘working from home’ experience. Post-COVID-19, it is apparent that occupiers are evermore focussed on issues such as green credentials, sustainability and the health and wellbeing of their staff.
Occupiers within the smaller floorplate market are increasingly demanding a more streamlined move into their new office. This often takes the form of landlords fitting out spaces with furniture, data cabling and meeting rooms, to help offer tenants a full ‘plug and play’ space.
We have seen several companies choosing to set up new offices in Newcastle over the last 12 months. What is attracting businesses to Newcastle from outside of the region?
Newcastle is the capital of the North East and remains a very cost competitive regional centre for office space, when compared with Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester. The city benefits from superb transport infrastructure by road and excellent access via the A1 south to Leeds and north to Edinburgh. Furthermore, Newcastle Central Station being situated on the East Coast Mainline, has excellent journey times to London Kings Cross of just over 2hr 30mins.
The city is also home to approximately 58,000 students at Newcastle University and Northumbria University, providing access to highly sought-after skilled graduates particularly specialising in computer sciences.
What costs are occupiers typically looking at for high quality office space in Newcastle currently?
Q2 2022 data suggests the number of new requirements has been maintained when compared to Q1, with the majority focussed on prime space in the city centre or best-connected locations with a very high level of staff amenity. This has maintained rental growth in the city centre and typical rents for Grade A accommodation range from £21 – 28 per sq ft.
Portland House provides high quality offices and best in class amenities in a central location for a quoting rent of £22 per sq ft.
To what extent is design important within the workplace and how will Portland House address the needs of modern occupiers?
Occupiers want their staff to feel safe, energised and able to work in an environment that fosters collaboration, creativity and innovation. The design and specification of an office is of paramount importance for the retention and future recruitment of employees. Portland House has been specifically designed to address these points. There has been a focus on creating a space which supports the wellness of its users through the inclusion of biophilic installations, hygroscopic and anti-static paints, and natural LED lighting.
Security and customer engagement are also vital. Portland House will adopt the latest technology, including touch free access for both staff and visitors and a bespoke Portland House app to assist with the management of the building.
The reception sets the tone for an entire building – it must be a unique, sizeable and well-designed space that ensures an efficient and welcoming arrival experience. Portland House will have a stunning new reception area, with a feature green wall, which will be the primary base for the building’s facilities manager.
How will Portland House compare with other office buildings in regards to connectivity?
Connectivity is extremely important, and not all buildings are the same. Ordinarily an occupier will be responsible for organising their own connectivity but this requires wayleaves, comes with long lead times, and has a direct installation cost to the occupier.
Portland House has a truly market leading solution. The building is connected with an ultra-fast dedicated connection (UDC) offering speeds of up to 100 gigabit per second and is backed up with an Openreach leased line and a 5G network. It has pre-installed fibre connections in each demise meaning occupiers can be connected in less than 10 days.
Furthermore, the building will benefit from an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and back-up generator providing an occupier with maximum protection for business continuity. The building has a Platinum certification under the WiredScore assessment criteria.
What amenities will be available to optimise the workplace experience for staff working at Portland House?
Portland House is centrally located opposite Laing Art Gallery and a two-minute walk to Northumberland Street providing an unrivalled level of amenity. The building is centred around innovative communal workspace within the Grade II listed former BBC Broadcasting House. This includes collaboration space which all occupiers are free to use, and meeting room space which is bookable through the app.
In addition, Portland House will provide high quality end-of-journey facilities including sizeable and well-specified male, female and disabled showers, changing areas with lockers, vanity areas and hair dryers, bike storage and service area, and electric chargers for cars and bikes.
What size of office requirements are you dealing with in respect to Portland House?
Portland House will be a newly refurbished Grade A office extending to over 60,000 sq ft. set over five floors. Requirements can be accommodated from 3,000 sq ft upwards. Typically, we are dealing with requirements from 3,000 to 10,000 sq ft.
Finally, please tell us why Portland House will be an attractive proposition to forward thinking organisations when it launches in September.
Employers have been keen to get staff back into office space, where collaboration and community building maximises long-term productivity. To attract employees back to the office, employers need to offer an office that is superior to facilities that are available at home and located in an area that provides a high level of amenity.
The location and specification of Portland House make it an incredibly attractive proposition for all occupiers.