Building a vision: can a green city flourish in a US desert?

This WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at plans to build a sustainable city in the US desert,  the least flexible employers in the world, and the search for the immune building

It sounds like something from a science fiction novel – a new city called Telosa built from scratch on an unoccupied 150,000-acre site in the middle of a US desert for an ambitious entrepreneur, with the aim of establishing a global standard for urban living and expanding human potential.

The project, designed by architects BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), will be focused on improving the quality of life of its residents through greater environmental sustainability, higher safety, less noise and pollution, more economic efficiency, and a 15-minute city design.

Telso is the brainchild of entrepreneur Marc Lore, whose ambition to create a more equitable and sustainable urban future led to the formation of the Junto Group – a diverse team of urban planners, designers, historians, community engagement experts, economists, financial managers, scientists, and engineers.

‘The City of Telso is a vision to create a more equitable and sustainable urban future…’

Potential locations for the new city include Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas, and the Appalachian Region. The Junto Group plans to engage state officials and other partners to begin to determine where the city will be built, with the first residents expected to start moving in by 2030.

The project will showcase extensive green infrastructure. Vehicles run on fossil fuels will be prohibited; instead, slow-moving autonomous cars will share the street with people and nature in a safe fashion. The heat island effect will be minimised to safeguard air quality. A circular economy will be created, and there are plans to establish a fund to restore critical habitats and preserve natural resources.

The economic system envisaged for Telosa is underpinned by citizens having a stake in the city’s land – with the idea that as the city does better, the residents also do better. Says Lore: “We have a chance to prove a new model for society that offers people a higher quality of life and greater opportunity.’

If Telosa sounds utopian, that is because it is. But not everyone is impressed. Some sceptics have labelled the scheme a ‘vanity project’. Others have questioned the rationale for building a city from scratch in the desert when severe water shortages have been hitting Las Vegas, another desert city.

US banks low on flex

‘Technology companies: remote and flexible. Financial services companies: office-centric and more rigid. Everyone else: hybrid.’ That’s the verdict of a Financial Times survey of company work strategies to assess how much flexibility firms are giving employees on the question where and how they work this autumn.

While many corporate plans have been put on hold or reversed due to local outbreaks of Covid-19, a general picture is emerging, according to the FT. It will surprise few people that American banks, led by Goldman Sachs, score as the least flexible, and tech and telecoms firms led by the likes of Spotify and Dropbox show the greatest inclination to adopt a work-from-anywhere model in the wake of the pandemic.

What is most intriguing is the many organisations still watching and waiting in the middle ground, trying to decide what type of hybrid model is best for them.

And now: the Immune Building

As employees head back to the office this autumn with wellbeing very much top of mind, a new building standard is jostling in the crowded certification market for attention.

This is the Immune Building Standard, which bills itself as a ‘blueprint for the healthy buildings of the future’. Set up by a European property group, it scores buildings on the presence of 130 suggested measures ranging from isolation rooms and antimicrobial paint to self-cleaning lift buttons, according to a report in DesignWeek.

But can a building ever be judged immune? This sounds like a very exacting standard. It seems that while people want a safer and healthier environment generally, an even more  important consideration is to understand what they are going back to the office for. Purpose might therefore trump cleanliness in the post-Covid-19 workplace. And no-one is immune from the search for meaning in work.

In-person events are back

Following the success of the in-person WORKTECH Copenhagen conference on 6 October 2021, stand by for more face-to-face sessions this autumn with leading experts, thinkers and practitioners in the work and workplace field. WORKTECH London is scheduled for 16-17 November at Republic in London, an outstanding new venue for our flagship event. Book your place here.  WORKTECH San Francisco takes place on 7 December. More details here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our virtual platforms. This edition is posted 13 October 2021.
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