Acute Vacancy: The Geography of Commercial Office Vacancy

Kevin Muldoon-Smith, Paul Greenhalgh, Ernie Jowsey

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In the UK, residential vacancy is relatively well theorised, commercial office vacancy is not, despite its presence in most towns and cities. The aim of this paper is redress this balance; the valuation of vacant office property, its quantification, typology, assessment of disproportionate impact and potential re-use are original contributions to the geography of urban abandonment in the UK. The mobility of demand and relative fixity of supply, the miss match of both and its consequences, commercial office vacancy is hypothesised.

Empirical study includes 30 locations and more than 15,000 vacant office properties in the UK. Vacant office properties, typically associated with the secondary office market, display a combination of economic, functional and physical obsolescence. These buildings generate negative externalities; they overhang the local property market and suppress values and investment; they cause visual blight in their immediate surroundings; they represent high embodied energy from their production and are a waste of resources in terms of capital investment, holding costs and land use. ‘Acute vacancy’ is an opportunity to improve this situation , an urban stock picker, it describes a minority of underused or vacant office properties that disproportionally impact upon towns and cities in the UK but also have the generic characteristics to assist adaptive re-use.

In conclusion, this paper argues that opportunities for property improvement and re-use inherent in the secondary office market are not being exploited. They are undermined by contemporary methods of urban regeneration, in particular its financialisation, which favours the construction of new build property at the expense of reinvestment in secondary property stock.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2014
EventRGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014 - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Aug 201429 Aug 2014


ConferenceRGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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