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Green Thinking

WSP - Investing in the third space

Aspirational cities are in a global race for talent, says WSP's Richard Palmer, and a greener built environment can help cities surge to the front of the pack.

Former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, observed that "talent attracts capital far more effectively and consistently than capital attracts talent. And Richard Palmer, Associate Director - Built Ecology at WSP, agrees.

"As people and capital become more mobile, cities are in competition for residents, visitors, businesses and investment," he says.

"The most clever, creative people want to live in cities that inspire. Our cities must encourage new ideas and innovations, and be places that appeal to knowledge workers.

"At the same time, for cities to attract investment, they need highly educated, highly talented workers - technology professionals, engineers, architects, designers, lawyers, financiers and accountants. These are the very people who gain most value from working in green buildings."

On Tuesday 27 May, Richard Palmer will be exploring how the knowledge economy and the built environment industry meet at Green Building Day. Richard, together with KPMG's Rachel Dixon and Immersive's Evan Harridge, will examine how our dependency on technology will change the way we live, work and play.

Investing in smart, sustainable buildings is a no-brainer, but less obvious is investment in the 'third space' - "that space that is neither home nor work, but the place in between where mobile knowledge-workers engage - on buses and trains, in parks, cafes and other public spaces," Richard says.

"Smart councils are starting to catch on to the value of the third space to knowledge-workers - offering free wifi in public spaces, for example.

"What we haven't yet grappled with is how we value this technological infrastructure. What is the value of a wifi-connected café in the lobby of your building, or in the public park? We haven't put a value on this yet - but this is exactly what world-leading cities are doing," Richard says.

And many of these world-leading cities - such as New York and London - are recognising the power of the built environment to address a range of big issues for cities, environmental sustainability, competitiveness and liveability among them.

"If you create a wifi-connected green space, for example, you'll be more likely to attract knowledge-workers, which is good for your city's economic prosperity and competitiveness. You'll be building greener infrastructure that may improve stormwater management, biodiversity and encourage urban agriculture. You will also enhance the liveability of the local area, which in turn will raise the value of the properties surrounding the green space."

"This is the magic point - where infrastructure and technology intersect to create a high-value public space."

Join the leaders at Green Building Day: Tuesday 27 May in Sydney and Friday 30 May in Melbourne.

WSP is a Green Star 2014 Thought Leader.