SPACE+ BWT: Technology and Engagement

4 min read
06/07/2023
By Lily Bennett

At this year’s SPACE+ BWT event, the main topics that dominated the stage and people’s conversation were ESG, AI, big data, and tenant experience.

essensys’ Chief Customer Officer, James Lowery, joined the Main Stage for the Technology and Engagement panel hosted by Jonathan Avery, Head of Technology & Data Real Assets, LGIM.

The panel began with the question Why is engagement important? The consensus was that engagement is where it all begins.

James Lowery continued to comment by saying…. there has been a significant shift in way we use offices, with a trend to occupiers taking ‘less but better’ quality space. A recent survey of 350 businesses by Knight Frank and Cresa highlights this. The findings show that half of the largest international employers are planning to cut their office space in the next three years. This has largely been driven by a growth in hybrid working strategies.

Therefore, as the office market adjusts to these changes, the sector needs to make sure there is demand for the space. This simply means providing space that meets the demands of tenants to ensure they are getting the experience they want from their office building.

Cornelia de Boinville, Senior Commercial Manager, Edge spoke about engagement in relation to prime and super prime buildings. Super prime being buildings that deliver beyond the key measurables. For example, the building must consider wellness not only in terms of amenities but the building itself, is there enough light coming into that building?

There are also sustainability targets to consider (Paris Proof). The UKGBC is recommending that the office sector should reduce energy demand by an average of 60% by 2050 to help the UK achieve net zero. Developers like Edge are striving to create buildings that reach or exceed sustainability targets so that the goal of net-zero can be achieved. Cornelia used the example of Can there be carbon savings through the materials used? as just one of the many factors in a building’s construction that needs to be considered today.

Claire George, CTO & COO, Savills IM continued the topic by saying there has been a generational shift where graduates are now asking questions that relate to ESG.

Beyond ESG, Claire also commented that the disconnect between occupier and landlord is extreme and the sector needs to recognise that. Thereby, working with the right suppliers enables the landlord to provide a space that the end users want.

Occupiers want to use offices differently now. There needs to be space for collaboration but also quiet space for people to concentrate. Savills themselves have recently completed an office refit to improve the quality of space which improves the experience of coming into the office for their employees.

However, providing the right space is easier said than done when there are many other factors to consider. essensys’ James Lowery discussed how there has been a seismic shift in market demand due to covid, the effect of which still hasn’t been realised in the market. With hybrid working and a challenging macro-economic environment, the trend of taking less but better space and using it more efficiently will continue. For low quality workspaces, obsolesce is a real risk, but for high quality spaces this presents an opportunity. Workspace owners and operators who take a data driven approach to understanding physical occupancy and help their customers to optimise will gain a competitive advantage.

Proptech used to operate as a standalone sector. As we become a more hybrid working world proptech and real estate must also evolve to operate more collaboratively. Rather than one serving the other, the two sides of the industry can come together to solve for specific issues, whether that is valuation, occupancy, sustainability initiatives or customer experience. Ultimately, landlords and operators want tech partners who can deliver an end-to-end journey, the key to that is the partnership.

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