Tag Archives: GBCA

Is a Well building different to a Green building?

Sick by Leonid Mamchenkov, on FlickrRecently I attended Worktech  Melbourne, where many of the speakers focused on wellness (or  health and wellbeing) which seems to have become the next big thing in workplace design. Australia is about to have its first certified “well” building, the new Macquarie Bank building at 50 Martin Place.

When Tony Armstrong from CBRE mentioned this concept of a certified “well” building, and that it had been around since 2013 (with CBRE’S global headquarters actually having being first certified WELL workplace) I wondered why I hadn’t heard of this building assessment tool before. I keep pretty up to date with what is happening in both the world of workspace and of green buildings, and this concept of a well building certification seemed like something that would have grabbed my attention before. Someone suggested maybe it was the Living Building challenge rebranded (it’s not). Whilst the WELL building standard may have been around for a little while, it’s been a pilot (version 1 was just released in February 2015) and there are so far only a small number of WELL certified spaces (coincidentally I have been to one of the restraunts registered for certification in Chicago).

So what is a WELL building? According to the website of the International Well Building Institute, who developed the WELL Building Standard “Buildings should be developed with humans at the centre of design.”  Interestingly this sounds almost the same as TILT Studio’s concept for codesign, who also spoke at Worktech (and is fresh in my mind because I have just been reading their book Codesign).

A WELL building is more than just human centred design – a WELL building sounds pretty amazing actually. The Well Building Institute claims not only will a WELL space improve our health, nutrition and fitness, but also our mood and our sleep patterns. And of course our improve our performance. There have long been claims that a well (as in good!) designed building, in particular workplace increases productivity, which one assumes equates to increased performance. From my own experience as a designer,it’s clear to me how buildings can help or hinder the activities within. Buildings improving mood also makes send to me – stimulating design, natual light and sufficient ventilation all play a part in enhancing our mood. But how can our buildings help improve sleep? Or nutrition? Clearly I need to learn more about what a WELL building might be.

So this week I set out to undertake some research on the WELL Building standard to see what it entails and how it differs from and compliments a green building (I should mention that the WELL Building certification is administered by the GBCI who certify LEED).  When I started reading the WELL concepts (or categories) it sounds a lot like GreenStar (Australia’s equivalent to LEED) – air, water, comfort… nourishment and fitness are a bit different. WELL has 7 categories (called concepts) are air, water, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort and mind. Like GreenStar these categories are then broken down into features (a total of 102). Some features are baseline essentials for certification and some are optional for extra points and a higher level certification. Also like GreenStar some features relate to the built fabric and some are management, policy or education strategies.

Air – this category is all about indoor air quality so is very similar to what you would expect for a green building.

Water – green buildings tend to focus on water use, WELL is all about water quality.

Nourishment – I am going to quote this one because I am not even quite sure what it might mean yet. “Implement design, technology and knowledge building strategies to encourage healthy eating habits. Provides occupants with design features, behavioral cues, healthy options and knowledge to enable healthier food choices”!!!! How will my building do all that? More research required on this element for sure!

Light – this seems a little more straight forward. It’s all about appropriate light and enough natural light. I can see how lighting can impact health, so many people complain about headaches and muscle tension related to poor lighting. Daylight also regulates our mood and sleep patterns so maybe his is how well buildings help improve our mode and sleep?

Fitness – is about introducing opportunities for occupants to excercise. So I expect this category will include features such as gyms but also design strageties that encourage using stairs over the lifts.

Comfort – again this is someone similar to some similar GreenStar credits. Acoustics and thermal confort a key to providing a “soothing, distraction free environment”.

Mind – this is another category I want to research further. Here we are looking to support mental and emotional health, relaxation spaces are important but so is “providing feedback and knowledge about their personal and occupational environment”. What does that mean?

Obviously to understand the tool and what it means for the design of buildings I need to do a bit more reading (all the above was gleaned from the overview sections of the website). Next step download the standard.

One difference I notice immeadiately on reviewing the executive summary is that “the space must undergo a process that includes an onsite assessment and performance testing by a third- party” – this sounds interesting someone must actually visit the building – and is not required for a GreenStar certification. The assessor will spend up to 3 days onsite undertaking tests and verifying features applied for. This is pretty stringent and I imagine comes at a cost (Certification is charged by the square foot, prices are on the website).

The program allows for certification only of completed occupied spaces. Buildings yet to be tenanted cannot be certified, only designed as WELLL compliant. Like GreenStar or LEED there are levels ranging from silver to platinum. WELL is being designed for many building types, although at this point is mainly aimed at office and institutional projects. Other project types (retail, residential, healthcare and more) are encouraged to register and help develop the pilot programs.

Like GreenStar has recently introduced, certification has a validity period of 3 years after which time, it must be re-verified and certified again.

If you are familiar with LEED, the standard has a comparison table identifying how the WELL features relate and cross over with LEED.

At this point I decided to read up on the nutrition and mind sections of the standard as these are the areas that I feel I have the least understanding of how design could affect space occupants in these areas. So I am by no means an expert on the standard yet!

Unsurprisingly a large part of the nourishment section relates to food and drinks provided or sold by or under contract with the project owner. So if I wanted to have a WELL certified shopping mall and my food outlets would have to meet pretty specific items around fruit, vegetables, fat and sugar as well as serving sizes and labeling. I’d say it would be simpler for a workplace which would tend to provide less food to employees. Hand washing is a feature where design plays a part – provision of disposable paper towels and soap at all sinks as well as minimum sink sizes are required for this feature. Under another feature, food preparation area require separate sinks to prevent cross contamination. (I wonder if a workplace breakout counts as there wouldn’t usually be raw meat there?) There are some specific requirements for refrigerators which might be selected by a designer. The main areas where nourishment features are impacted by design would be the provision of gardening space and spaces for mindful eating, both of which are optional features. Mindful eating is the provision of breakout areas as unsurprisingly getting away from out desks is good for reducing stress, and apparently eating with others encourages healthier eating. The eating space must have fridges, microwaves, sinks etc and contain tables and chairs to accommodate at least 25% of total employees at a given time as well as be located within 60 m [200 ft] of at least 90% of occupants. The new GreenStar interiors tool also requires breakout space, with an area based calculation per occupant and less definition of what the space contains – the GreenStar credit is about providing staff for employee enjoyment as opposed to specially a space for eating (it can be part of an activity based work area)

The mind concept is much more diverse. Covering biophilia, workplace policies in travel and flexible working, charity, beauty, the design process and post occupancy evaluations. Some features would be perhaps difficult to demonstrate objectively – how do we measure if the project contains features intended for human delight and celebration of the spirit? (This feature is apparently derived for the Living Buildings Challenge). The feature related to adaptable spaces and requirements for both diverse spaces for collaboration and private spaces for concentration could start to provide a good guide to the amounts and types of private spaces required within workplaces when clients start pushing design teams to cram in more workstations. Not sure the sleep pods and meditation cushions will take off just yet though! Inclusion of plants has already seen a big increase in Australia due to GreenStar, and forms part of the biophilia features along with patterning from nature, water features and roof top gardens. Other design oriented elements include minimum ceiling heights and the inclusion of artworks.  This mind section would be worthwhile for designers to take into account even when not designing specifically to meet the standard.

Having reviewed in more detail two of the seven concepts, only around one third are design related. Clearly certification under the WELL building standard requires a high level of commitment from management and will have far reaching effects on the organisation and it’s employees and building occupants. The question is who will drive adoption of this standard – whilst design teams can educate their clients as to its existence, I think ultimately it will have to be driven from within an organisation’s leadership team for there to be any chance of sucess. Perhaps also we will soon be finding a new consultant on our team, a wellness consultant who might have a background in HR or psychology rather than in buildings. Personally I believe, this could only be a good outcome for workplace design. What do you think? Can design contribute more to health and wellbeing? Will your own or your client organisations be interested and committed to this process? Would you like to have a wellness consultant on your team?

Ceilidh Higgins

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Spaced Out and 5 other mega trends in the property sector

Morocco and Spain (NASA, International S by NASA

Last week I attended the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Building Day in Sydney. One of the notable changes in the professional development events held by the GBCA over the last year has been the broad range of topics impacting upon the design, construction and property industries which are being discussed at these kinds of events – I think this is really great to see as in my view there is a shortage of good professional development and training events available for architects and designers. (Green Building Day is also great for scoring your GreenStar accredited professional CPD points – you can get a whole years worth in just one day.) This year the keynote speaker was Bruce Precious from The GPT Group, speaking on Global Mega Trends and the Property Sector. I’d seen Bruce speak before on the GPT offices at MLC (and blogged about it here) . As I’d enjoyed his previous presentation and I was in need of a few more CPD points I signed up for the morning session. As I got so much just out of Bruce’s presentation and the panel talk following it, I’m going to focus on just that part of the morning. If you missed the day and were hoping for a full wrap, sorry but you will have to hunt elsewhere in the hope someone else has blogged about the rest! (Trust me I’ve picked the best bit for you)

Bruce’s presentation was covering research that The GPT Group undertook in conjunction with CSIRO looking into mega trends affecting property industry. The aim of The GPT Group in looking into these mega trends is to be able to convert threats into opportunities. Bruce noted that if there is evidence of a trend it has already happened, it is historic and doesn’t guarantee the future. I’d also note that if the research has gone this far and now being pushed out to the public its probably not the cutting edge trends of the minute – but then thats part of the point isn’t it, a mega trend is one that tends to last as while as well as have a large impact.

As so often is frequently commented upon in social and technology circles, Bruce commented on the fact that the world is accelerating, the pace of change is ever increasing. Does this mean we can still identify long term trends? This one is my question – but I think when we get to what are the 6 mega trends you will probably agree yes we can.

As well as long term trends there are shocks and tipping points, man made and natural. Whilst these can have just as much impact as the longer term mega trends, they are not something we can predict or our businesses can plan for. Although sometimes these shocks or tipping points could perhaps have been predicted? My question – Global Financial Crisis – shock or trend? But lets not go there – lets go now to what are the six mega trends which The GPT Group identified as having the most impact on their business, the property sector in Australia. Now see if you can guess what they actually mean…I love the names, great idea whoever came up with these catchy sayings.

1. Spaced out
2. More from less
3. The orient express
4. Behind the scenes
5. Tangible intangibles
6. Forever young

Spaced Out
No it’s not about the fact we have less office space per person than ever. It’s about tech savvy people, being constantly connected, the change in how we communicate and what information we have available to us due to the massive changes in technology over recent years. It includes big data, but as Bruce pointed out we have to get from big data to big information, perhaps he thought we can then get to big knowledge but will big wisdom ever exist?

In practical terms, GPT are developing apps based around the concept of the shopping centre as the community hub. The apps not only display info about the centre but link social networks. In future,sensors will personalize this experience even further.

In the workplace, technology allows flexibility and movement – the freerange workplace. The empty desk could be used by anyone, not just someone from our own organisation. GPT has invested in Liquid Space – a start up company base on a concept similar to Airbnb and are now trialing spaces in Sydney and Melbourne.

More from less
This one has the most obvious title – using less – less water, less energy, less materials. Bruce took it in an interesting direction beginning with a discussion of the growing intellectual potential of the world is due to world growth, growing affluence, and participation of women. (I thought it was a great rant by the way!)

GPT are looking at cutting use of natural resources – reducing water, waste, energy etc. Bruce discussed recycling and the possibilities of improving recycling – upcycling rather than downcylcing. Eg rather than grind glass up into road base, can it be used as something higher? Aparently there is a company upcycling dirt from street sweepings which contains a high amount of precious metals, as apparently do old mobile phones! These are generating new possibilities for mining resources.

For GPT and the property industry in Australia energy savings have been a key change in recent years. GPT is part of the The Better Building Partnership which consists of many leading property companies in Sydney. Romilly Madew, the CEO of the GBCA is quoted on their website as saying “Partnership is the new leadership”, Bruce questions could mankind’s new force be cooperation? We now have a database of water, waste and energy covering a large chunk of the local Sydney commercial building market. This is a great resource for the Sydney property market and others moving forward.

The orient express
The growth of China and other eastern population centers – a scale of populations that is unimaginable as an Australian. A company sales conference of 3000 people came to Sydney, this was just their top people! They booked the bridge climb for days solid! Can we even visualise this scale? Bruce recommended Gapminder.org as a way to visually see the changes and development of the world across many measures of large population centers. (There is a great gapminder TED talk too).

Behind the scenes
Supply chains and logistics are changing – both due to the internet and globalisation. I think there might be a lot more interesting stories behind this one.

Tangible intangibles
We are moving beyond consumerism as product consumption and into experience consumption – for example travel. Shopping centres for example are now experiential as well as for the function of shopping. Community spaces, outdoor spaces, gathering spaces.

Forever young
The impact of ageing and disability on design. The space requirements for motorized scooters and wheelchairs.

I thought the last 3 trends could have been discussed further, all of them will impact on design and could be quite interesting. I can see why the trend More with Less was a focus at a sustainability event, but it did seem that maybe Bruce was running out of time at the end – I would have been quite happy to listen to more. Bruce’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Romilly Madew with Bruce, Siobhan Toohill (Westpac) and Richard Palmer (WSP) who brought some interesting perspectives as well as answering audience questions on the topic of mega trends and the property industry.

What stories would you add to these last 3 trends? What do you think are the mega trends affecting the property industry? CSIRO apparently came up with eight of which GPT chose to focus on six. Do you think the trends elsewhere are the same as in Australia? Some of the other interesting trends raised in the panel discussion following were the social and sharing economy and the rise of the city.

Workplaces of the Future: Will the office look like my son’s bedroom?

Oliver’s ’Big Boy’ Room by Jug Jones, on Flickr One of the questions raised at the Green Building Council’s Workplaces of the Future Summit held on 12 April, was will my office look like my son’s bedroom? The answer is apparently Yes. Now I like to think that this relates to all those cool crazy things like the car bed pictured, and not the mess of a teenagers room, but possibly it could be either! Today I’m covering the second half of the summit, if you missed my post on the first half of the Summit – Freerange Working, click here.

Psychology and the Workplace
Natalie Slessor – Lend Lease
Natalie is an environmental psychologist and talked about what is needed to design places that connect with people, attract staff and promote well being. The workplace should to be synonymous with the organisational culture and values.

Using clever groups of three words beginning with the same letter Natalie identified key issues in designing workplaces to achieve these outcomes.

Competence, Control, Confidence – does the environment facilitate work/productivity, can the occupant control the environment, does the environment make the occupant comfortable, safe and give confidence.

What is the vision? What is the experience? What is the question we need our workplace to help us answer?

End State, Engagement, Evidence – understanding and addressing both organizational and individual drivers and fears, honesty is important as part of the engagement strategy, strength of evidence based research to help in decision making.

Bruce Precious – GPT Group
Bruce was a self admitted naysayer of activity based working – until GPT moved into their own refurbished offices in the MLC Tower, and now he is a dedicated convert.

As a major property owner and landlord, GPT Group embarked on a major fitout of its own space within the MLC tower to demonstrate that existing buildings can indeed keep up, with a showcase fitout designed by Woods Bagot. Bruce spoke on the process of behavioural change management, moving from an environment which housed “more paper than people”. There were certainly many staff for whom the move to non allocated desking and only 1m of storage  space provoked fear and anxiety, Bruce himself among them. However by starting the conversation with staff early and the CEO taking a leading role, the shift has been successful. Within the first 3 months, 88% of employees would not have gone back to the previous environment. The idea of the ‘biggest loser’ competition where staff competed to reduce paper/storage brings some fun into the change management process (I wonder if ‘gamification’ could perhaps be taken further in the context of stakeholder management?)

Whilst research suggests that an office environment in itself might not be motivating it can be demotivating according to well known psychologist and “pioneer of job enrichment” Frederick Herzberg. After the staff had moved in extensive post occupancy studies were undertaken using BUS occupancy survey method and compared to previous studies for the old GPT offices (also in MLC but on different floors). GPT now rank as the most satisfied office occupants out of the offices surveyed in Australia! Bruce believes the GPT fitout may not be motivating but it is certainly inspiring.

GreenStar Interiors – Beyond Office Interiors
Jorge Chapa – GBCA
The uptake of the GreenStar Office Interiors tool and its impact on the market for environmental products has been significant. However rather than just update the existing tool, the GBCA has extended the reach of this rating tool with the release of the new GreenStar Interiors Tool. The new tool takes GreenStar interiors to other environments beyond the office being applicable to any type of interior – education, healthcare, retail, industrial (I must say I was left wondering what an industrial fitout might be?) and is currently in pilot version.

The new Interiors tool focuses on sustainability for people. It is also a simpler tool with less documentation and instead of prescriptive metrics defines criteria that design teams can use to find solutions to suit their projects.

Brett Pollard – HASSELL
The new HASSELL Sydney Studio fitout is aiming to be the first project certified under the new GreenStar Interiors tool. The new tool has a more human centric focus and will help improve a wide varitety of work environments. A wide range of spaces such as healthcare buildings, retail environments and law courts are covered by the tool – and are all workplaces too.

HASSELL has long been a supporter of the GBCA and have designed many GreenStar projects including SA Water House, which achieved a 6 star rating for both Office Design and Office Interiors tools. HASSELL has also obtained ratings for its own studios in Melbourne, Brisbane and Shanghai (LEED rating), which are also located within refurbished industrial buildings rather than new building stock.

Brett spoke of the human need for choice and how we can design the likely choices to be more environmentally friendly, ideas coming from the book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein).  This book uses the term ‘choice architecture’ to describe how human choices can be ‘nudged’. For example if we design the default settings for a meeting room to have the lights and air conditioning off instead of on,  many users will then simply leave it off, only turning on if needed, resulting in energy savings.

Amanda Steel – Stockland
Amanda spoke of how the use of retail space is changing and already includes spaces such as art galleries and community rooms. Shopping centres have become a social hub and are no longer just for shopping. All Stocklands Centres now include community rooms which are used for a wide variety of purposes. Wifi in shopping centres is essential. Shopping centres may already act as a third workspace, and in the future it is likely that coworking spaces will also become part of a retail environment (I am aware of The Milkbar in Canberra which is a coworking space in a former retail space/strip, not in a centre).

25% of people are in shopping centres to do something other than buy a product. Unlike in office spaces, the outcomes of sustainability and human centric measures in shopping centres are easily measured in terms of sales and time spent in centre. For example with an increase in daylight, shoppers will increase time in the centre by 30%.

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Workplaces of the Future: Freerange Working?

Chickens by Richard Elzey, on FlickrOn Friday I attended the Green Building Council of Australia’s Workplaces of the Future Summit in Sydney. I thought I would share with you some of my notes and thoughts for the day. One of the key messages from the day is that the workplace is changing and there is a big focus on the experience of the user – many of the presentations dealt with this issue and it forms a larger part of the new GreenStar Interiors tool (which is now is pilot version). A number of the speakers used the term ‘freerange working’ to describe a new way of working where the user has more choice and space in which to move as well as a more enriched workspace experience.  The summit was a fantastic opportunity to hear from a wide range of speakers including designers, occupants and researchers.  As I have so much material, this will be a two part post.  Part 2 next week will include an update on the GreenStar Interiors Pilot tool. (Part 2: Will the office look like my son’s bedroom?)

Bilophilic Design – Dr Stephen Kellert (Yale)
Dr Stephen Kellert is a Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology from Yale and was the keynote speaker of the summit. His presentation was an introduction to biophilic design, what it is and a summary of research showing why biophilic design is beneficial to building occupants.

Biophilic design is based upon the idea that we are biologically predisposed to attach meaning to the natural world and therefore incorporate nature into buildings and urban spaces to improve the human response to the built environment. The design can include the incorporation of the actual natural environment through plants, water views or the like, or by the influence of nature through patterns, complexity and variation of design and the use of natural materials. Much of the world’s most famous architecture – for example Gothic Cathedrals or the Sydney Opera House exhibit principles of biophilic design.

Dr Kellert also discussed a number of studies which have shown that such environments improved outcomes for human health and productivity. These studies included healthcare, social housing and factory settings.

Those interested in finding out more should visit http://www.biophilicdesign.net/ where you can purchase the film Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life or various books written by Dr Kellert.

The Workplace Diaspora
Sarah Kay (Woods Bagot)
Sarah spoke of the “Google Generation” – those born after the mid nineties, who have grown up with the internet – and the impact their coming into the workforce in coming years will have. Sarah described this generation as always on with a need for stimulation and choice, access to information and an ease with technology and virtual communications. As a result the office space is likely to become more of a place for physical collaboration.

The “Google Generation” are also used to being switched on and communicating 24/7 and as a result working hours are likely to shift and line of sight management may become a thing of the past. This will lead to the physical space of the workplace being utilised more intensively both in terms of utilisation (which we are already seeing), but also in terms of hours of working. Trends such as Activity Based Working, Real Time Working, Agile Working and Alternative Working Solutions are already heading in this direction and Australia has seen a number of high profile examples including Macquarie Bank, National Australia Bank and GPT.

Lauren Haas (Brookfield Mulitplex)
Lauren spoke on the need for developing high performance buildings, which she defined as buildings where the value of the built environment can be objectively demonstrated through independent research.

Lauren looked at the changing design of zoos from providing an environment where animals simply survive in small bare enclosures to today’s zoos where animals thrive in environments that are designed to mimic nature and provide stimulation [I thought this was a fantastic analogy!]. This would lead to higher performance of our building stock. The focus of building performance measures to date has been on energy efficiency, rather than the benefits to the human capital of the business. As salaries and the costs of turnover make up such a high percentage of business costs then the cost benefits to be reaped by improving the environment for the human capital through increased productivity, health and well being are huge.

Lauren was involved in the World Green Building Council report “The Business Case for Green Building”, in the chapter on Workplace Productivity and Health, summing up some of the key research undertaken in this field.

Paul Auglys (Commonwealth Bank of Australia)
Paul spoke on the process of change management in the Commonwealth Bank move to Activity Based Working at Commonwealth Bank Place.  Key elements in the decision for a fairly conservative organisation to make the move to ABW were to visit a number of other projects (Microsoft and Interpolis being key influences) and to prepare a business case identifying benefits across employee engagement, productivity and customer service, environmental and space utilisation measures. It was also important to find the ABW that suits the individual business model.  For  the CBA, the concept of staff having home zones rather than a totally free desking environment forms an important part of their ABW implementation.

After making the decision to move to ABW, key to the successful implementation of the project were the intensive stakeholder engagement process, the construction of a large pilot project were 200 staff worked and an integrated project team including Property, IT and Change Management.

Paul’s advice for other organisations looking at moving to ABW:

  1. Don’t underestimate the amount of change, provide support for change and ongoing training.
  2. Technology is a key aspect and must support the environment.
  3. Tailor ABW for your business – connect your ABW with the culture you want to build.

Carol-Ann Pickvance (HASSELL)
Carol-Ann spoke about the future of work beyond activity based working.  ABW is rapidly moving towards the mainstream in Australia and likely to become the norm.  Workplace trends beyond ABW inlcude coworking and codesign.

Coworking is a rapidly growing way of working where members rent space within shared office environments. Originally envisaged as spaces for start ups and individuals looking for work communities, corporate memberships are growing as the coworking space is seen as an environment which offers different opportunities for collaboration or innovation than the traditional corporate workplace. The Hub in Melbourne is an example of a coworking space. Key to the coworking space is that the workspace needs to attract people to it, the space is self organising and user appropriated (everything is on castors for instant rearrangement) and merges the facilities and atmosphere of traditionally different typologies – coffee shop, education space, workspace. The other concept from the coworking space that offers users additional benefits is the concept of the host, who not only manages the space but also seeks to understand the different projects and people and assist in connecting members and creating networks.

Carol-Ann also discussed the role of technology, and identified that the speed of change means that many corporations are just unable to keep up. Frequently consumer technology at home is ahead of corporate technology. The coworking space is based upon bring your own device and therefore the only technology must is wifi. However in some places coworking spaces are also offering members the benefits of shared high end technology such as telepresence.

Carol-Ann believes that many of the elements of coworking will become important in all workplaces, and in particular the element of user choice. The idea of codesign takes user consultation to the next level incorporating the workplace user group in not just the functional requirements but the whole design process and aesthetic. This could be quite confronting for interior designers and changes the focus and process of design.

I will be going back to discussions on the business of architecture and interior design, but the next few weeks posts will focus on a number of conferences I am attending. As well as part 2 on the Workplaces of the Future Summit, in coming weeks I am attending TEDx Sydney (May 4) and attending and presenting and the Revit Technology Conference in Auckland (May 16-18) and will blog further on topics of interest from these conferences.
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