Why glass remains the material of choice in commercial office fit-out

Dave Broxton MD argues that the UK’s regional commercial markets continue to offer significant areas of opportunity.

The market for commercial office fit out has been on a firmly upward trajectory. Strong growth rates were associated with high levels of demand, which, in turn, saw activity reach record high levels in regional markets alongside the capital.

This has wiped away the ‘cubicle farms’, which perhaps rather depressingly defined office design at end of the last century. It’s been replaced with hot-desks and a new generation ‘casual office spaces’ combining open plan with informal quiet and meeting spaces. New build or industrial loft refurb, these spaces are defined by their use of glass.

According to the new The Commercial Glazing Markets 2017, by Palmer, published at the end of last year, four years of consistent growth meant that the commercial glazing market was 16% up on 2012, while in installed value it jumped by more than 41%.

But with new office starts slumping by more than 70% in central London in the five quarters since the Brexit vote, compared to the five quarters leading up to it, are the wheels about to fall off the commercial office juggernaut?

Well it’s clear that Brexit has had an impact. The UK commercial sector has traditionally attracted significant overseas investment so concerns about its future relationship with the EU, are going to create a ‘ripple’ if not a ‘wobble’.

With 15 million square feet of office space under construction at the end of Q2 2016 in London alone (the most in more than 15 years and well above the peak of the last cycle in 2007) if the heat has come out of the market, it hasn’t been by much.

Regionally, it can be argued that Brexit has had less of an impact with horizons in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol, among others, going through a period of transformation as millions of square metres of commercial office space rise from new foundations.

Bohle offers an extensive range of products targeted at the commercial arena, launching the new Vitris Portavant 150 internal sliding stacking system this month.

Offering the flexibility for use in high-end residential or commercial applications, the multi-track system uses a telescopic mechanism, which enables each individual door leaf to be stacked alongside the other, maximising opened space.

The FrameTec interior glass partitioning system incorporates similar design flexibility in an easy-to-install frame system, supporting full customisation.

Supplied in Select and Premium formats, the Premium offer delivers exceptional sound insulation of 33dB, while its also certified to EN ISO 10140.

In addition to our partitioning, internal sliding and standard glass door hinges, locks and closing mechanisms, we also supply a flexible range of balustrading systems. The most recent addition is the EasyMount 6020, which introduces hardware savings to cut the cost of balustrade installation. A heavy-duty addition the to the EasyMount range, the 6020 withstands a linear load of up to 1.5kN.

We’re constantly tracking and forecasting design trends, developing products that support glass processors in accessing the opportunities that the commercial fit out and office sectors continue to offer, and which maximise the pull-through of core product.

Current office trends are towards an almost ad hoc mix of highly adaptable open and private working spaces. The Portavant Multiline 150, Frametec deliver this flexibility. They provide natural light, quiet and flexible workspace and form part of the glass processing sectors continuing contribution to the design trends that are defining new workspaces across the country.

The headwinds that may accompany Brexit are difficult to call. An upside may be that the devaluation of sterling may bring overseas investors back as they get more bang for their buck. What is certain however, is that glass continues to be central to the design to future commercial spaces.