Those who can afford it are going for buildings that are aesthetically significant, smart and technologically advanced environments.
Corporates on the business scene have the budgets for the best space, and they are increasingly demanding about the way that buildings look and operate, putting pressure on developers to take risks and build offices that push the boundaries.
Developers, corporate real estate (CRE) professionals and service providers came together at the CoreNet Global conference in Amsterdam in September to discuss the trends and the future of CRE, providing an insight into what corporates want from their office space and what developers can do to attract them.
The session on the impact of disruptive technology on real estate attracted attention. The panel consisting of representatives from JLL, OVG Real Estate, Uber and Cisco, discussed what impact of technologies such as the ‘internet of things’, intuitive systems, data analytics and innovations in transportation and mass automation on workplace design.
Tom Carroll, head of EMEA corporate research at JLL, who chaired the session, says there is a disconnect between the exponential pace at which technology is advancing and the slower pace of the real estate world.
However, there are some developers that are ahead of the curve. OVG Real Estate – the developer behind The Edge in Amsterdam, which is widely considered to be one of the most sustainable and innovative offices in the world, is one of them.
Erik Ubels, chief technology officer at OVG Real Estate, talks about the project from both the developer and occupier perspective.
“The way that I have to look at real estate is that I have to enter markets – sometimes challenging markets – within a day on the first day we land there, and I have to be able to gear up or gear down as the business scales those markets,” says Paul van Wijngaarden, Uber’s regional workplace manager for EMEA. “The difficulty is to find that flexibility, and that’s a big challenge.”
“We’ve been looking at how we can take up space fluidly,” van Wijngaarden says. “That could mean renting a desk or renting a room, whatever it is we need, for a couple of hours a day for the first month or two, and then for those models to come together with more traditional office space and then eventually tie in with flexibility on the development side. That’s really what we’re trying to crack.
“As a true tech firm, we want to be as liquid as possible with our assets, but there’s a big divide between what I want real estate to provide and what is actually provided to me. I hope in 10 years we’ll be having a very different conversation with landlords and developers, and I hope there’ll be much more flexibility.”
With flexibility comes an understanding of how a building will operate once it is handed over to the tenant, and often a degree of futureproofing.
Ubels expresses disbelief that for much of his life he didn’t realise that many buildings were only built to be sold off by developers. He believes there should be a fundamental shift in the way developers perceive the lifespans of their schemes.
“That’s it; you only make money once,” he says. “And that forces the industry to build a building cheap because the only driver is to get as much out of the deal as possible. If you think about what it is you really want to do and if you think about sustainability and the future, it is to take care of what the building will cost over its lifetime.
“I’m totally against people who say they are going to build offices in cities [that will be relevant] for 30 to 40 years. That’s crap. Nobody can foresee where technology and transportation are taking us. Maybe if you build today it will be an office for eight to 10 years but after that it may be converted for living or into a hotel or a school. You have to build the building in a different way.”
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