Basil Demeroutis

Basil Demeroutis, FORE Partnership, developer of the Cadworks office development in the IFSD reflects on how living through the pandemic has created the opportunity to reset the way we live and work, to move forward towards a better, cleaner, more equitable community.


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No doubt 2020 has been a challenging year for the property sector, with developers having to pause site work and manage new regulations and ways of working. But often, challenge brings opportunity, and one of the most significant outcomes of living through a pandemic - and perhaps most unexpected - has been the growing realisation that we have a chance to completely reset wide ranging aspects of the way we live and work.

The enforced 'time out' has had a startling effect. In March, the European Environment Agency reported a significant drop in air pollution, particularly in major cities, as lockdown measures vastly reduced traffic. Glasgow's most polluted street, Hope Street, saw a 50% decrease in pollution within the first two weeks of lockdown. With air pollution a major contributor to certain chronic illnesses, this staggering drop in pollution was immediately felt by many.

The question now posed to policy makers, planners and citizens alike, is how to sustain this new-found air cleanliness without impacting negatively on city centre businesses and workers who often rely on cars to commute, due to gaps in public transport provision.

We at FORE have long championed cycling as key to creating a clean, healthy, egalitarian city where people no longer breathe unsafe, polluted air and where travel to work is accessible to those without access to a car.

Other cities such as Amsterdam have managed this in style; however it is fair to say that there is a lot of work to be done in the UK to make cycling the default norm. Our weather isn't always conducive, our infrastructure often doesn't support cycling, and despite the excellent work being done by organisations such as Cycling Scotland, we still have a fairly car-centric society. We can't control the weather, but we do have jurisdiction over the rest.

For cycling to work, it needs to be easy, straightforward and safe for people to commute by bike. People need a place to shower, to change, to securely store their bikes.  We are delivering all this in our 94,000 sq. ft. Glasgow City Centre building Cadworks, with our ambition to set the gold standard for all office buildings. Our vision is for Cadworks to become the norm - a place where cyclists are supported and celebrated.

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We are building the country's first cycle-in access ramp, storage for a large number of bikes, cooling areas and ironing stations.  In fact, in a first for a Glasgow development, the only parking we are offering is for disability vehicles and a small number of electric vehicles.

And we are pushing for the broader city infrastructure to change too - more cycling lanes, more support for cyclists.

We support an incredible local social enterprise, Soul Riders, which supplies bikes to vulnerable people, allowing them access to education and work, and a healthier lifestyle.

There is still much to do. In the UK, we rely heavily on cars to get around.  And our entire societal value system needs to change so that cars are no longer perceived as vital, or as status symbols, so that we value careful stewardship of our fragile environment over what kind of car you drive.

Whilst Covid-19 has of course been a terrible time for us all, it has offered an opportunity - perhaps not seen since wartime - to pause, reflect, reset, and move forward as a better, cleaner and more equitable community.

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