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Last edited 09 Oct 2017

BCO Urban Group Seminar - Plotting the Future

On 21 September 2017, The British Council for Offices (BCO) held a seminar at U+I’s offices on Howick Place about the future effect technology may have on the way we plan the development of cities.

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Established in 1990, BCO is Britain's leading forum for the discussion and debate of issues affecting the office sector. U+I are a property regeneration company that transforms undervalued and overlooked parts of towns and cities into neighbourhoods and communities.

Martin Sagar, partner at architectural practice Sheppard Robson chaired the event.

The seminar was framed by the statement: In the age before computers, architects were regularly in trouble for getting their hand-drawn perspectives completely wrong. Thankfully, those days are long gone and now we have some of the most sophisticated tools in the world to help us place our ideas and see what they look like without false truths. Today there is no hiding place.

Gordan Ingram and Ceri Evans of Vu.City gave the audience a preview of their London mapping software, demonstrating the benefits to property professionals of having access to an instant and current 3d model of London. They suggested that the ability to place yourself anywhere in, or over London and assess the past, current and future built environment is very powerful.

There is endless potential to add programmes and information to analyse and test site potential accurately and quickly. For example, add data from the network of cameras and receptors around the city and you have a real time model of London.

The mapping software could also help planners and politicians assess and inform policy, while reducing the burden on developers to reproduce information over and over again for planning applications and site assessments.

Peter Barbalov outlined the evolution of urban design and the importance of people working with technology to optimise decision making and test creativity.

Peter Rees challenged the advance of technology and warned of the dangers of losing the human touch and personal authenticity. Questions over the control of technology and accountability for accuracy were also raised. However, Peter conceded that if a tool could help developers work with planners at an earlier stage in the design development process, and there was greater clarity over planning guidance and decision making, then this would be a welcomed initiative.

This is a topic that will run it’s course but anything that increases efficiency in the planning process and helps with the interpretation of policy will reduce development cost and help make UK PLC more competitive.


The BCO’s Urban Group is a committee chaired by Duncan Trench and focuses on the built environment that surrounds office space. Duncan is keen to attract new blood into the group and would welcome proposals for seminar’s, debates or other initiative’s that could challenge and inform BCO members. Please get in contact with the Urban Group through the BCO or Duncan, a Director at U+I, should you have a proposal.

--U and I

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