NextGen group looks to future London

Thursday 20 June 2019

Ideas ranging from how to cope with new mobility solutions and the harnessing of big data to attracting talent and creating better conditions in the workplace emerged at the latest working group in NLA’s NextGen programme.
The event, which is geared towards bringing together younger professionals and established industry experts, looked at critical issues facing the capital, with results informing the programme at this year’s London Real Estate Forum.

Hosted by Programme Champion Gardiner & Theobald, the working group was introduced by Gardiner & Theobald’s Partner, Kevin Arnold, as providing an opportunity for networking and sharing opinions about the industry and the city. A range of parallel discussions took place, with nominated representatives presenting key findings and points of view.

Gardiner & Theobald M&E cost consultant, Ryan Dacey, discussed his table’s thoughts on about smart buildings, “big data” and how much of it there is to collect. What end users like Transport for London or the City of London want from this data will drive how data is used, but with fast emerging technologies, should we want to limit what we and companies like Google and Apple are collecting? Presently there is a mass of data that as a society we do not know how, or even if, it will be useful in the future, so the case is there to collect and analyse as much as possible. But trust is a big issue – companies need to prove they are trustworthy and ethical in using data by having a positive effect on society rather than profiteering in order for people not to mind it being used.

In construction, big data and improved technology is being used to manage sustainability issues for materials, logistics and offsite fabrication. This is while BIM data is driving design and cost efficiencies, offering a more collaborative coordination process across the disciplines. Smart technology is being implemented into buildings more and more, where major clients need to be forward thinking in their use of big data. Expectedly the construction industry can be sceptical of smart technology, as it can require the use of data from their own supply chain and specialist equipment which, as intellectual property, can be their USP. Ultimately education in how data is being used to benefit everyone is key. 

Kotey Nikoi, meanwhile, architectural assistant at Pollard Thomas Edwards, was charged with representing his group’s views on streets and mobility. Streets need more greenery and to be more active and inviting to encourage more people to walk, he suggested. But there was a confusion over priorities and hierarchies, not least with motorists and cyclists, and the rise of new forms of travel including electric scooters and ultimately autonomous vehicles. Dockless cycles represent another issue, while the design of streets needs to be more inclusive and better represent the needs of those with dementia, for example. 

For Bennetts architect David Dawson, it was tackling talent post-Brexit that was the subject of his group’s deliberations. How can young start-ups be attracted to London and the wider UK? Perhaps young people could be attracted through investments made in education and infrastructure, and in improving conditions for agile working in order to counter issues of rising house prices and cost of living. But maybe the model is too London-centric and post-Brexit could be a springboard for decentralising the economy, with places like Liverpool and Manchester possibly better attractors for grass roots firms.

And finally, Emma Scott-Miller, project manager at Gardiner & Theobald and Shadeyah Chin-Managan, assistant quantity surveyor at Rider LevettBucknall performed a double act taking on the issue of wellness against a background where one out of four is affected by mental health and over 400 people in construction commit suicide globally. Issues like lighting, air quality, PH levels in water and height-adjustable desks are important factors. But clients also need to provide good line managers on this issue and think about wellbeing and mental health from the get-go, with more holistic thinking aimed at improving productivity and retaining staff through offering social spaces, activities, and other wellbeing options. Flexible working is another area where perceptions need to be changed, said the pair, along with ‘macho’ site conditions where it appears ‘not cool’ to talk about mental health. And one of the best ways to improve this area is through linking back to data in order to better ‘sell’ the concept of wellbeing to get over the common cited problem of cost. Not everyone can afford a yoga studio in their basement, said the pair, but a walk in the park is a good, low cost alternative to many seeking better wellbeing. 

So, next steps for this Next Gen group? It was suggested that the programme should be continued, perhaps into secondary schools and universities, that a similar programme could emerge in different industries to share information, and perhaps for future sessions to use technology like webinars, along with more mentorship evenings to expand connections across the industry.


Kevin Arnold, Partner, Gardiner & Theobald (Chair)

Christopher Azzopardi, Assistant Development Manager, Canary Wharf Group

Paul Bailey, Architect, BDP 

Rachel Blewden, Senior Transport Planner, Velocity Transport Planning

Pip Burrows, Interior Designer, IBI Group
Emma Cariaga, Head of Canada Water, British Land (Mentor)
Shadeyah Chin-Manahan, Assistant Quantity Surveyor – Commercial Fit Out, Rider Levett Bucknall
Ryan Dacey, M&E Cost Consultant, Gardiner & Theobald  
David Dawson, Architect, Bennetts Associates
Marcus Della Croce, Associate Director, Vectos 
Alex Hammerton, Associate Project Manager, AECOM
Joe Kawalski, Associate, Savills
Bruce McVean, Strategic Transportation Group Manager, City of London (Mentor)
Jenna Murray, Senior Planner, Carter Jonas
Laura Murray, Planning Manager, Argent
Emma Scott-Miller, Project Manager, Gardiner & Theobald 
Kotey Nikoi, Architectural assistant, Pollard Thomas Edwards
Emily Pallot, Associate, Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt
Leo Prescott, Development Manager, Hadley Property Group
Lucy Saunders, Director, Healthy Streets (Mentor)
Rikesh Shah, Head of Commercial Innovation, Transport for London (Mentor)
Emma Weller, Mechanical Engineer, Elementa Consulting
Lisa Woo, Strategic Design Manager, London Borough of Enfield

By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ

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NextGen is an NLA initiative which identifies and supports young talent within the industry, and champions the professional development of the built environment’s future leaders. NextGen members are profiled in 50% of the full NLA programme, creating many opportunities to showcase new ideas and projects to the wider NLA network.