After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown.
Offices will be competing this year with what is, for many people, their favourite place: home. There’s an element of control that comes with our homes that is lost in the office, so I believe in 2021, people will demand more of offices, and will need to gain confidence that they’re working in spaces that are as healthy, safe and productive as their homes.
Secondly, I think 2021 will see buildings becoming healthier – but not at the expense of sustainability. While there is often a surprising disconnect between these two things, it is possible to prioritise sustainability while also creating healthy spaces, but we all need to commit to it.
Last year, the public became more informed about air quality, but that has come at a devastating cost: between Covid-19 and wildfires, our learning curve has been a steep one. However, I think that people will continue to become more empowered and informed about air quality. As occupier expectation changes, this will put pressure on developers for healthier buildings; it is a very positive cycle.
CEO and founder, Locale
After the screwball year that was 2020 I hope for a calmer, more settled 2021, especially as a vaccine is now in place, allowing for a return to some sense of normality for our staff, business and the economy.
The ‘death of the office’ has left the workforce feeling more uprooted than necessary, and we must recognise the positive role it plays in our lives.
I hope we return to separate workspaces, albeit on a more flexible basis, as there are so many benefits: from fostering a social culture and improved work relationships, which lead to healthier mental wellbeing. We can host all the Zoom quizzes we like, but there is no substitute for in-person collaboration.
With the acceleration of tech adoption since March, and as we gain clarity on the Covid guidelines, I suspect we will see increased demand from firms seeking digital solutions to meet the new workplace requirements and provide a safe, social and seamless experience for their occupants.
Last year taught us lots of things, not least that we are all fantastic banana bread bakers. Another realisation seems to be – finally – that smart buildings don’t need a million gadgets to actually be smart. More and more buildings are adopting smart technology, and will continue to do so into 2021.
I have two predictions off the back of this. As more buildings become smarter and more data becomes available, occupiers will want to know more about the air quality, capacity and occupancy of spaces they live and work in. With greater understanding about air quality also comes demand for it to be better, for it to be monitored better and for helpful actions to be taken off the back of that data.
Landlords will need to be more proactive than ever to provide smart building solutions to tenants. Smart buildings offer a competitive advantage, and can help landlords lease faster and charge a premium for their spaces.
ESG continues to grow in importance. However, companies can’t truly show their commitments to this without monitoring their water and energy usage, and indoor air quality, and using that data meaningfully.
National head of real estate, Freeths
A safe medical and stable political environment at some point in 2021 would be a definite hope. I expect that things on that front will level out in early summer and the F&B and tourism industry will go crazy – expect to pay double on your flights by June.
Sheds will continue to do well and retail will continue to struggle. Offices we be in the middle, and I for one can’t wait to get back to the office.
A further hope is that Freeths remain as resilient as a business. March ‘20 was a shock to us all, but after an initial difficult six months we have gained some ground back, won Litigation Firm of the Year and are again busy helping clients do deals.
My final hope is that the curiosity with proptech continues and the climate and diversity agenda grow. And no doubt we all hope we will get to go on holiday this year too.
CFO, CPI Property Group
I hope that the global financing and capital markets remain robust, and current liquidity conditions continue. I expect highly accommodative European monetary policy to continue to support asset values, including good-quality income generating real estate.
Over time, I expect people will be surprised how much they missed the office, and that they will return enthusiastically. I am tired of Zoom! Building business connections and relationships has been difficult. Lastly, I expect business and leisure travel to recover: it can’t get much worse than 2020!
General manager, London Designer Outlet
If 2020 was the year the property sector began, seriously, to talk about the relationship between landlord and tenant, I hope 2021 will be the year a culture of collaboration becomes the norm – such as that which is embedded at London Designer Outlet.
A high street where landlords and tenants are partners, sharing both risk and reward, will help create more prosperous destinations that better serve and delight our guests.
One thing I hope to see is more landlords and brands implementing turnover-based solutions. While you might think turnover-based rents are a new thing, they are part-and-parcel of how we do business at London Designer Outlet and always have been.
In fact, they’ve been so successful, they’ve been rolled out across retail and leisure operators in Wembley Park, Quintain’s multi-billion bound transformation of the North West London neighbourhood.
Bricks-and-mortar retail absolutely has a future. That future is in stronger partnerships between landlords, asset managers like Realm, and our brand partners. The best guarantor of that future will be collaboration, for every party’s benefit – not least our guests.
These predictions have been edited at the editor’s discretion. You can find a selection of video forecasts and New Year’s resolutions below:
Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope
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Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope (part 34)