Long gone are the days of cubicles and typewriters, smoke-filled offices and the nine-to-five. 

William Newton

William Newton

The way we work has changed and will continue to do so, as will the buildings in which the work takes place. No longer just roofs over our heads, buildings are becoming multidimensional, living spaces that can change the way we interact.

In the past decade, landlords have begun to adopt smart technologies to increase tenant productivity and drive operational efficiency. This movement was slow to gain mass adoption and, until now, the smart building debate has been dominated by technologists and technology firms.

However, landlords and occupiers are the ones building and using the space; they should have the definitive perspective on implementing and maintaining smart buildings.

Smart buildings can help landlords stay nimble and future-proof their investments

A few buildings, like the Edge in Amsterdam, set the bar on what can be achieved. But not all buildings need the same capabilities to create inspirational tenant experiences. It is not about the most high-tech, slick solutions; user experience differentiates smart buildings.

Landlords, offering tenants a designated desk for the day at any of their buildings, with space preconfigured and set up, are adopting the format of the corporate hotel room. Data is being used creatively to improve user experience by creating seamless access and wayfinding from reception to shared meeting spaces. These are some of the ways landlords are innovating.

Investing with foresight

Advances in technology that appear revolutionary soon become standard. This leaves the definition of “smart” in a constant state of flux, creating challenges for landlords eager to improve the tenant experience while continuing to offer value for money.

Most buildings could be smarter through minor fit-out adjustments, without extensive refurbishment. The business case for investing has to be robust, particularly when it comes to spending on expensive and rapidly obsolete technology. Landlords must approach potential improvements with foresight.

Covid-19 has shown the real estate community can take rapid, innovative, far-reaching steps to protect tenants’ safety. It has impressed upon us how quickly the status quo can change. Many of the changes predicted by industry commentators post-Covid-19 are an acceleration of current trends. Whether it is flexible working, sustainability or space-as-a-service, managing the pace of change will become increasingly important as we emerge from the lockdown’s most stringent phases.

As with any crisis, innovation becomes a priority. Smart buildings can help landlords stay nimble and future-proof their investments. The value in a smart building is really within its adaptability in creating spaces that can be used by the widest range of tenants and meet their rapidly evolving needs.

As an industry, we’ve spent too long letting technologists set the vision. Real estate now has the opportunity to take centre stage.

William Newton is president and managing director at WiredScore