Reinventing assets and maximising potential
Over recent months the use of property and the high street has changed and will continue to do so. More so than ever, it is important for landlords and property owners to ensure their buildings and spaces become more flexible and adaptable to keep up with changes & meet future social and environmental needs.
We hosted a Roundtable in partnership with M7 Structura, and invited property companies, PropTechs and technology investors to discuss the impact of the property industry post COVID-19 and explore trends such as the shift to a seamless and integrated experience within buildings & spaces, and the use of technology to uncover new insights and inform decision making.
The discussion focussed on three areas of the asset lifecycle which have a particular relevance to reinventing assets and maximising potential, in a post-COVID and technological market:
• The planning system and design of new/refurb of legacy buildings
• Re-occupation of buildings – across all sectors – and how new technologies may aid this
• Using technology to actively manage buildings
The planning system and design of new/refurb of legacy buildings
Changes to use classes
Prior to the changes in the planning system, the use classes were very restrictive and participants acknowledged that change was required. From the 1st September, the planning system introduced Class E which allows flexibility to existing assets which would automatically enhance their usage, by allowing them to be able to bring in an alternative use such as a restaurant without needing planning permission. Although this change was a reaction to land owners having found the planning system very challenging when it came to using their space for alternative use, this change is predominantly aimed at helping the high street recover post-COVID. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen retail struggle however with the introduction of Class E, this could potentially help save the high street. It may be controversial but it was the opinion of the group that the changes would have a positive impact.
Putting people at the centre of the design
With London having a huge cultural context, it makes it difficult to make a rule for design to follow such as ABC as no context is the same twice in London. Although specific local plans with design codes and pattern books for developments may be effective when designing buildings such as large housing schemes with 3 storey developments, it stifles creativity when designing buildings in London and outer boroughs where it is so contextual and subjective. The community, sustainability and people need to be put at the heart of the design.
VU.CITY offers huge benefits to architects, developers, local authorities, planning consultants and agents both in their own work and supports greater communication and collaboration. Their technology provides the world’s largest and most accurate 3D city models and is already used by over two thirds of London’s boroughs. In particular, VU.CITY ensures that development proposals can be considered in their full local context, with complete freedom to move around the digital model and work collaboratively with the developer at pre-application stage, enabling better informed pre-application advice and informed decision making.
Re-occupation of buildings and how new technologies may aid this
Short-term and long-term reaction to COVID-19.
COVID-19 has triggered huge changes in the specification of buildings. In the short-term, companies are introducing health and safety that do not require major structural implications on how buildings are designed such as automatic entry systems, facial recognition, touch-free devices, lifts with destination control etc. Many companies are looking into tenant engagement apps to promote the use of the office. Before COVID-19, tenant engagement apps were considered a nice thing to have, however since COVID-19 they have almost immediately become a ‘must have’ in order to entice people back into offices and spaces.
However, in the long-term it is predicted the trend to share desks, flexible working and community spaces will be reversed to allocate particular users to particular desks. In turn, this means the way we use building services and fresh air rates will change. As buildings try to encourage more natural ventilation and purge more often and intensely to promote clean air and stop transmission of the virus, we must counter balance the carbon emission impact and the long term implications of this new health and safety way of designing. Through the use of building analytics technology, CIM, empowers landlords to operate buildings efficiently and sustainably as possible by providing the data insights needed to optimise energy consumption and slash carbon emissions.
Real estate is no longer one size fits all
Historically, smart buildings and smart work places have been separate. Tenants take control of the smart workplace and the landlord is in control of the smart building, however since COVID-19 there will be a much greater blurring of lines between the two. One of the biggest trends noticed is the change of relationship between landlords and tenants from being contractual, legal counter parties, into landlords partnering with tenants to bring together and deliver a better workplace experience. The challenge is presented as we will see a greater range of tenant expectations, real estate is no longer one size fits all, the industry will need to be able to deliver a range of options to match expectations of the tenant.
PropTech company, Mallcomm, unites shopping centre management, marketers, retailers and operational staff in one powerful universe facilitating instant two-way communication and effective operational procedures. Their technology enables efficiency, builds relationships and makes a space secure and well-managed. Mallcomm facilitates control over operations by harnessing the power of effective B2B communication.
Using technology to actively manage buildings
Data and security
Technology enables better insight, visibility and helps facilitate decision making. Since the pandemic, there has been a major spike in the use of technology and digitising operations and using the data analytics from this to provide insight.
Real time solutions using technology such as AI can be implemented and applied in many different ways for example identifying whether a space is clean or dirty, determine hygiene control in rooms, send notifications when a meeting room is empty and needs to be cleaned. There is an enormous amount of applications for AI within the property industry and specifically around predictive building maintenance and navigating around the building.
However, for AI to be fully utilised and provide valuable insights, it is reliant on the data that is inputted. When talking about data collection in buildings, there seem to be some concerns from occupiers in regards to how the data will be used. Individuals are wary of commercial organisations having access to personal data and benefiting from it. That said, many technology applications are able to anonymise personal data. In order to overcome this misconception, it was acknowledged that further education is needed to establish trust between occupiers and landlords and greater transparency to reassure them that data is being stored correctly.
It’s no secret that the real estate industry runs at a slower pace than technology. This is heightened by recent trends of implementing software and smart solutions since the pandemic. However we are at the beginning years of a digital transformation decade and the hurdles that are there will be overcome.
The discussion has highlighted the need for reinvention and COVID-19 has accelerated this. The companies that will survive will be of those types best able to adapt. In doing so, technology can help the property industry become more adaptable and flexible by unlocking the data that’s needed to make faster and more informed decisions.
PropTechs within the discussion such as Coyote Software are an example of companies that are facilitating and driving the change with their technology as they provide a long term solution for real estate investment management. In addition, Re-Leased’s technology solution allows property owners and managers to centralise property portfolios and management teams to gain real-time insights into properties and tenancies.
Ami Kotecha, Amro Partners
Simon Reid, Darvis
Daoud Himmo, Catalyse Developments
Paul Walsh, CIM
Oliver Durham-Winch, Coyote Software
Nadim K, Focus Property Investments
Matt Partridge, Infabode
Piotr Wieczorek, Innovo
Paula Gonzalez, John Robertson Architects
Hannah Prideaux, M7 Structura
Michaela Middleton, Mallcomm by Toolbox
Jack Sibley, Nuveen
Naqash Tahir, PGIM
James Raingold, Pluvora Real Estate Advisors
Tom Wallace, Re-Leased
Nina Elliott, Waxwing Ventures
Valentina Shegoyan, REACH UK / Second Century Ventures
Piers Mulroney, VU.CITY