--> Gill Blog: June 2005

Gill Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Freedom Tower - World's Safest Office Building?

New York State Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a new design of the Freedom Tower now proposed for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site destroyed by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The new design, by project architect David Childs, is a completely new proposal from the ground up in place of the competition-winning proposal by world-famous architect Daniel Libeskind, designed to ensure a better building.
In almost every respect, the new design for the so-called Freedom Tower, which was presented to the public yesterday, is better than the one it replaces. Above all, it will be safer, less vulnerable to terrorist attacks from the ground, thereby easing the New York Police Department's basic concerns about security, which sent the architect David Childs back to the drawing board only a few weeks ago. This building - like the preceding design - will also set rigorous new standards for protecting its occupants and guaranteeing a safe exit in case of disaster.

According to press reports, the redesign was worked up in a matter of weeks after an embarrassing setback for the trade center redevelopment, when the New York Police Department deemed the first version of the Freedom Tower too vulnerable to attack by car or truck bomb.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement released after the unveiling that the "new design provides for a level of bomb blast mitigation consistent with the N.Y.P.D.'s report on the Freedom Tower and adequate to the threat" described in federal safety guidelines.

Developer Larry Silverstein said the redesign will create a safer building—the height of the structure symbolically reaching 1776 feet as originally proposed—far more secure from bomb attacks at street level.
"I think it will be very safe," Governor Pataki said. Indeed, he said, if one of his children were hired by a Freedom Tower tenant, he would "be confident in their safety."

However, the building will not be completed until 2010, a year or two later than first planned. The history of large-scale development in New York suggests that the road ahead for the Freedom Tower will be tortuous, particularly at a site where so many competing interests and emotions reign. Further modifications are almost inevitable. Even now, it is not clear how much the redesign will add to the estimated $1.5 billion budget nor who would pay for the security enhancements.

Though Mr. Silverstein reported "some fascinating discussions with respect to very large block users," no prospective tenants have been publicly identified, except for the governor's office.

Few discussions could possibly have been as "fascinating" as the one with Goldman Sachs, who exploded the original design a few weeks ago by showing the developer a dramatic video during a meeting to discuss its proposed 40-story headquarters, just to the northwest of the Freedom Tower.
Stunning many in the room, Goldman representatives showed a film of a vehicle, packed with more than 10,000 pounds of explosive material, blowing up and leaving a huge crater. While some participants viewed the film as an insensitive move by Goldman, it also prompted discussion about the amount of explosives that the buildings would be protected against. At that moment, the talks began moving toward clearer standards for "hardening" buildings to blasts.

Appraisal: Fear in a soaring tower.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Gill to Present Workplace Continuity at CPM 2005 Canada

We received some great news last week when we learned that we had been selected to speak at CPM 2005 Canada. Contingency Planning and Management is a global leader in business continuity management. The event takes place 6-8 December 2005 at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver and will provide a wide array of topics. The theme this year is Taking Corporate Governance to a New Level, a topic that has become particularly relevant especially in the era of corporate malfeasance.

For our part, we are sticking to a theme that has been core to our mission - Workplace Continuity, and the conference will give us an opportunity to present some of the latest developments we have made in this area. In particular, the following description of the session seems to nicely align with the conference theme:
This session discusses workplace continuity, a concept that unifies various technology, operational and organizational silos onto one platform. If done methodically organizations can optimize cost efficiency, worker satisfaction, and attain the redundancy required to maintain operations. Risk professionals can redefine their responsibilities and enhance their profiles within their organizations understanding and integrating basic principles of workplace continuity.

We'll provide more details as we move closer to the event.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

WPS Disaster Management Solutions

WPS Disaster Management Solutions, specializing in emergency planning, has become a Gill Advisor. The WPS Story, available on their website, provides a good description of their services:
Since 1980 WPS Emergency Planning has been helping corporations, building owners and property/facility management companies develop and implement Emergency Response and Recovery Management Programs throughout North America. We specialize in commercial-office, commercial-retail, government, shopping centers, schools, hospitals and care facility plans. Our many years of experience in this field combined with our state-of-the art Incident Command System (ICS) based emergency plan has awarded WPS the recognition by our many clients to be the "Leaders in Emergency Management".

Although WPS is headquartered in Vancouver, their client list demonstrates a wide geographic reach that spans North America. We're thrilled to have them partner with us.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

In Toronto Congestion leads to Decentralization

As global economic factors transform North American economies from production-oriented societies to ones that are more knowledge-intensive, one phenomenon becomes increasingly noticeable: the flight of people and resources to large urban centers. In turn, this can create so much pressure on one of these areas, that before long, the trend starts to reverse to ease the pressure.

A perfect example of this can be seen in Toronto. Until 1976, Toronto was a moderately-sized city that served as the financial capital of Canada. Permanent change began when a seperatist government was elected in the Province of Quebec, which caused a flood of multi-nationals who had for years called Montreal home to flee that city for Toronto. Changing immigration policies in the 1970's also contributed to population growth.

The next exogenous factor affecting growth came about in late 1984 when China and the United Kingdom signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an agreement that would set the wheels in motion to transfer control of the territory to China in 1997. Fearing a clampdown on free market trade, many Hong Kong residents began packing their bags and moving to Canada - a commonwealth country with close proximity to the free markets of the United States.

Today, Toronto has become a city bursting at the seams, with scant ability to pay for the infrastructure projects that can adequately keep pace with its dizzying growth. It now has to deal with a number of problems that could be crippling if not addressed. Although property taxes are much higher in the city than in surrounding areas, the city still seems plagued with pot-holed roads, as well as an incomplete mass transit system. The city is faced with a looming crisis in waste management, and to top it off, summer smog is making this city in the north seem more like Los Angeles.

Commuting has become a nightmare, as real estate prices in the city core force workers to live in suburbs that can impose a 3-4 hour daily commute - a situation that places more pressure on people to create a reasonable work-lifestyle balance.

It seems almost predictable then that a report published by the Canadian Urban Institute indicated that a Toronto is now facing stiff competition by neighboring communities who are luring companies away from the city. Although a disproportionate property tax burden is the main driving factor, there are other contributing factors as pointed out by the Globe and Mail:
A large chunk of the higher tax bill is due to the province's education tax, which is set at a higher rate for businesses in Toronto than it is for those elsewhere. The report calls on the province to level the playing field across the GTA.

But the study, which was funded by the Toronto Office Coalition, an association of owners and tenants in high-end offices in the city, also cites other factors. It says traffic congestion, and the lengthy process required to get a new building approved, are also driving away new development in Toronto.

In the end, it always comes back to the same question: how long is this sustainable before people start realizing that fundamental change in organizational configuration is required to allow things to move forward?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The New World of Work

We've spent a fair bit of time harping on inevitable changes to workplace configuration and strategy. In May, more than 100 CEOs from the top Global 1000 companies gathered at Microsoft Corp.'s Redmond, Wash., to talk about the next generation of tools that will move the concept from the drawing room to the workplace at the ninth annual Microsoft CEO Summit as discussed in this article. The theme of the event was "Pathways to Growth - The New World of Work."

It was here that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates discussed some of the trends that are are at the forefront of change in the workplace:
"Information workers are the driving force behind business innovation. To adapt and succeed in the 'New World of Work' today and tomorrow, they need advanced tools that will help them make the most of their unique talents, experiences and judgment."

Gates described how workplace trends such as the shift from manufacturing- to services-based economies are shaping technology innovation in the coming decade, as is the growing need for people to collaborate across organizations and time zones. Other forces include the larger and more complex streams of information that employees must handle in today's "always on, always connected" technology environments, the demands for greater transparency and accountability in business processes, and more intense competition to recruit talented employees from a shrinking work force.

Clearly, "The New World of Work" is a new catch-phrase for Microsoft's new range of productivity products, but Tom Peters at uses the expression in his "About" description in his blog sidebar and scores #1 on Google for the expression.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Teleworking Emerging as Key Business Continuity Strategy

We've spoken a fair deal over the past week about health. Let's put that aside for now and return to a discussion that is near and dear: teleworking. It was interesting to see the following article in Continuity Central suggesting that in addition to the usual reasons cited for adopting teleworking (i.e. to ease congestion, greater ability to maintain a life-work balance, etc.), teleworking is now emerging as an important component within an organizational business continuity strategy:
ITAC is promoting telework as a key business continuity tool. At the conference ITAC stated that “Telework enables an organisation’s employees to continue working when faced with many disaster-related interruptions, be they man made or natural, by using current communications and computer technologies to work from home, on the road, or at a client’s office, simply anywhere.”

It is undeniable, teleworking has indeed shed it's initial tag as being a fad into something that is more substantial. In fact, the degree to which teleworking is currently being adopted may only signal the beginning of a much larger phenomenon, as pointed out in this article in the Guardian:
"Under the surface, we suspect teleworking is a much bigger iceberg than the tip would suggest, as current statistics don't take into account people who telework for half-days and maintain regular work in the office," Lyons says. "We are also interested in discovering how far teleworking has penetrated into the practices of blue-collar workers, as it has previously been seen as a white-collar activity. We anticipate recording dramatic increases."