The conference is done and dusted now. What was TechoCon 2019 like? We are bringing you a detailed summary, not just of the day itself, but of the whole year since last year’s conference.
The first emotion from this year’s TechoCon? Huge energy generated by hundreds of people. We were very happy by the number of people who came to our conference, the number who registered and the positive feedback we have received.
Putting it into numbers, over 650 people registered for this year’s TechoCon! This is a significant increase compared to last year and the TECHO showroom was full all day. A packed programme, one presentation after another, excellent speakers, hundreds of meetings, exchanging business cards, presentations of partners… and a few days after the event now we remain full of exceptional impressions. The Ebook has just come out (download it here) and in it we summarise the entire content of the full day.
The vision to inspire
The keynote speakers were Leon Jakimič and Michiel Hofman, who confirmed their positions as real leaders in their fields, people with something to say.
The packed main hall and their excellent talks has taken the TechoCon creative concept another step forward. Leon Jakimič presented his vision for the Lasvit brand transformed into reality.
“We could have built something on a greenfield site – it would have been cheaper and quicker. However, we wanted to be at the centre of European glass-making, where it all started,” said Leon Jakimič at the start of his talk on the main stage at TechoCon.
The new headquarters of Lasvit is not just a standard office, but is an example of a vision to inspire the world. “It is a symbol of our love for light,“ adds Leon. A glass house in the centre of Nový Bor that incorporates two original Baroque houses dating back to 1790. Both in the past were occupied by local glassmakers. In one of them the glassmaking craft was maintained even in the post war period when it served as a glassmaking school. Between the original buildings Lasvit has built a “glass” house from a material reminiscent of roofing tiles. This unusual building is illuminated at night to symbolise the renewal of glassmaking in the region. The new Lasvit headquarters is not just a workplace, but is also a showcase of our vision to inspire the world and a symbol of our love for light.
A good feeling is in the genes
The second keynote speaker at this year’s TechoCon – Michiel Hofman – is an architect who in 1999 established HofmanDujardin Architects with Barbora Dujardin. Michiel is the author of the design philosophy Shaping Intuition®. This characterises a personal approach to architecture that is focussed on employee satisfaction in their workplace environment. “Architecture is not about buildings, but about people. This conviction led us to develop a design philosophy that we called Shaping Intuition® and which takes a holistic approach to ensuring that people feel comfortable in their environment. All of our projects are based on four natural and four cultural values,” says Michiel. He doesn’t perceive architecture as a pure art form, but a complex field comprising a host of influences and factors. “Our cultural values are Clarity, Quality, Personality and Inspiration. The natural values are Spaciousness, Groundedness, Expression and Connection. We believe that between them we arrive at a harmony – we can create an inclusive environment in which everyone can feel at home,” he adds.
In their talks both Leon and Michiel from their own perspectives clearly set out their feelings regarding the topic of this year’s conference, Well-Being & Sustainability. Lasvit is a firm with the clear vision to be an international leader in creating a unique world full of light. HofmanDujardin Architects, in the words of Michiel “…has a good feeling literally in its genes; you will find it in every project.”
From feelings to hard data
The first panel discussion was on the theme “Is well-being in the workplace just a myth, or a measurable value?” It commenced with all four speakers giving their own definition of the term Well-Being. The excellently prepared moderator, Daniela Písařovicová, requested each of the speakers to give a brief definition of what for them is Well-Being.
“For a long time now it is not a fruit bowl with oranges and bananas, and a ping-pong table in the corridor,” stated David Mansfeld of Johnson & Johnson. These are also important in a modern office environment, but much more important, according to him, is the overall environment and the planned care of people and the environment in which they work.
“If you have 1200 people and 1200 chairs for them then everyone will know where to sit, but at the same time a number of people will be off sick, on holiday, visiting customers, on business trips or working from home… Studies show that the actual number of people sitting in an office varies between ⅔ and ¾ of the total number of employees. In our case somewhere around 900 workstations,” added David.
And how does Petr Skondrojanis see this theme? “companies that systematically devote attention to employees are generally the most successful and their shares increase in value. It has been shown that there is a direct relationship between care for employees and company performance. International companies like, for example, Microsoft and Google, are leaders in this field, and their share prices enjoy stable growth,“ said Petr. This excellent discussion was concluded by David Mansfeld with the thought that Well-Being is today a basic requirement for sustainable human resources in any business.
A sustainable environment – workplace and worldwide?
The second panel discussion at this year’s TechoCon was conducted in English and, in contrast to the morning session, was focussed on the physical environment of office buildings and specific experience with the ways in which sustainability must be reflected in new concepts for working. In comparison with the first discussion, it was more focussed on “hard” attributes of today’s offices – buildings and the work conditions of the people who spend a large part of their day there.
In contrast to the sceptical talk given by architect Zdeněk Fránek on the Creative Stage, who created a stir with the claim that nothing good is generated today in office buildings, the second panel discussion covered the theme of sustainable buildings and the work of people in them.
“Today around 75-80% of new office buildings have LEED or BREEAM certification. It is now such an essential and standard feature that no one questions it,” stated Eva Nykodymová of SKANSKA. For their building Visionary they obtained WELL certification, which included on site monitoring of, for example, water and air quality, as well as complex parameters such as illumination and lighting, thermal comfort and noise. In contrast to environmental certificates, such as LEED or BREEAM, WELL certification is not issued just on the basis of completed forms, but on the basis of actual measurements in situ. Gideon van der Burg of the company Leesman is convinced of the importance of certification programmes such as LEED, BREEAM and WELL. “They are not just ‘pieces of paper’, but they clearly confirm the value of a given building,” he said. Rick Veenendaal, who is manager of Circular Economy at Gispen, and is responsible for the transition to the circular business model, described his experience of working for a global producer of office furniture. “We have to respond to requirements from Japan, the Netherlands… from wherever. The circular economy model significantly reduces the level of pollution and also contributes to reducing the world-wide level of inequality,“ he says. “The right kind of sustainability is concealed within a firm. It arises from the business focus, employees and the willingness to do something for the general good” added Dan Heuer of Fair Venture.
What does the future hold for the office market?
And what are the panellists’ market predictions? Where will we be in ten years in the area of sustainable office buildings and the workplace environment? “Just as twenty years ago we had no idea about what offices today would look like, the attention we pay to ergonomics and the furnishing of space, so today we can have no idea what will be in ten years’ time,” agreed the panellists.
Both the panel discussions at TechoCon show how everything is interconnected and it is not possible to separate the environment from users, and vice versa. Form cannot conceal insufficient content: in the case of the office environment it is primarily a sense and feeling of belonging. Well-Being and sustainability are two interconnected concepts: inner satisfaction and a feeling of security among employees provides companies with better and measurable results.
New for this year was the creative stage, which hosted the best Czech architects. They each had eight minutes. We conceived the Creative Stage as a kind of “architectural hit parade”, but without any order of merit.
“It was primarily about presenting the most interesting projects, office and solutions created by Czech architects and architectural firms. In order not to completely overload the audience we gave our speakers a brief: present one project / one problem / one solution,” says Šimon Opekar, one of the founders of the conference. “We said: Show us something that took all your energy, that you had to give your all for. Where you really achieved something. Present to the audience the best that you have designed in recent years. Share with us your victories, or defeat,“ added Milan Začal. On the stage in rapid succession and in two sessions we saw presentations by Czech and international architects: Roman Vrtiška & Vladimír Žák (Vrtiska Zak design studio), Martin Krupauer (ATELIER 8000), Ondřej Chybík (CHYBIK+KRISTOF ARCHITECTS & URBAN DESIGNERS), Zdeněk Fránek (Fránek architects), Jan Aulík (Aulík Fišer Architekti), Petr Matyáš (di5), Eva Le Peutrec, Gideon Vandenburg (Leesman), Radovan Mačák (Prague Design Hub), Kai Stania (RIM) and Jakub Klaška (Zaha Hadid Architects).
The Creative Stage with its brisk tempo and varied presentation content accompanied the talks and discussions throughout the day. And how was this year’s TechoCon as a whole? In a nutshell: once again, bigger and better than the previous year. TechoCon as a concept still has direction and purpose.
TechoCon 2019 in a nutshell
To conclude we would like to thank all participants: speakers, panellists and partners. Everyone who today forms part of the large TechoCon community. Everyone who met with us during the year at our TechoCon Morning Meetings. The organisation team who prepared the entire conference and the morning meetings during the year.
Our morning meetings will continue: don’t miss out on anything happening within the TechoCon community, follow our blog and social networks. Thank you all.