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Beyond the Metatrends

A roundtable conversation about what's next for commercial real estate

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This year’s Propmodo Metatrends series highlighted the rapidly evolving nature of smart buildings and the ever-changing role of brokers, facility, and assets managers. As smart buildings fill with more and more data, leveraging that data into action will be the biggest challenge of the next five years. It starts with understanding workers coming back to the office, but that’s just the beginning. The role of the office is changing as office workers across the country reexamine their relationship with the workplace. 

If you missed Propmodo’s Beyond The Metatrends webinar, we pulled a few choice quotes from the riveting conversation that were too good not to share. 

CEO & Founder @ Cherre, L.D Salmanson on the shifting role of the office

“If we look at how cities actually started, they started not as a place for people to come work, they were a place for merchants to come show their wares, maybe once a week or something like that, but then the culture really became the biggest attraction to come to cities. I think offices are going through a similar type of process.” 

“It was true before the pandemic. Offices were going through this process of offering more hospitality, kind of like a front of house type office where you see fewer cubicles, fewer corner offices, and a lot more open shared space, not just because we’re all cheap on how much space you want to give for per employee, but because we think as employers that it fosters more creativity and better collaboration.”

“The office is becoming more and more about collaboration and less about a place to monitor employees that we don’t trust to work as hard somewhere else.” 

CEO & Founder @ District Technologies, Lee Butz on the new KPIs of the smart office

“What are the top three areas we measure? One is occupancy, it’s always been measured, but it’s being measured in a much more effective and much more real-time way than ever before. The other big area is sustainability and energy usage of buildings, because we’re still one of the top polluting industries as real estate, and that needs to be pulled from the building and shown as insights to the occupiers and the landlords. And then thirdly, and just as important, is the real-time feedback from the users.” 

“I think a lot of data is looking at occupancy and energy usage of buildings. But what about the qualitative community experience? How happy and how productive are you in that building day-to-day? We only get that by real-time feedback.” 

VP Sales @ Genea Robert Vail on the increasing importance of occupancy sensors

“You need the right tools to be able to measure the very base level of who is coming into the building and when. You want to bifurcate that by the tenant because it’s very important if a tenant is trying to say that they’re potentially going to leave the building or sublease space or give up space — you need to be able to track that at the very base level to understand what your potential risk exposure is to these tenants either coming in or not coming into the building. At a base level, you should be able to know occupancy by tenant, by date, by time, and be able to pull that into an aggregate for each category and really break that out to help you get a better picture of what’s happening.” 

CEO & Founder @ Cherre, L.D Salmanson on brokers adapting to technology: 

“So I think brokers are here to stay for a while in the sense that they are there to interpret the landscape and be a trusted adviser to put context around the data.” 

“The trend that we see very loud and clear is that we’re seeing that the marketplace has come up at a rapid pace as assets are more digitized. The buying and selling of space and properties are also going to become digital. And we already see that on the leasing side. VTS already has the beginnings of a marketplace for leases, and I think tenant brokers should be very afraid because I don’t really need them 90 percent of the time. Yeah, maybe I need some help because I’m occupying some space that has a strategic element to it. Sure. I probably have someone in-house at that point handling some of that. So maybe I don’t really need the broker in that context. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of that already.”

VP Marketing & Partnerships @ Prescriptive Data Gary Chance on how smart building upgrades are being calculated:

“The future of return on investment is very clear. This facility manager adjusted these few things throughout the day and then you’ll be able to basically say they saved X amount of money through real-time measurement and then create an NPV for all of that saving. Then they can understand how much can and should be spent on capital improvement projects and technology investments.” 

CEO & Founder @ District Technologies, Lee Butz on how wasteful office buildings can be:  

“The number of times I’ve walked around London or New York and looked up to see entire floors with lights on everywhere. That should just be a thing of the past. But it still happens all day, every day, complete floors are left on when they should be turned off. There’s a really simple solution.” 

CEO & Founder @ Cherre L.D. Salmanson on the future of office demand

“I’ll outperform a salesperson on Zoom every single day of the week. So if you give me the opportunity to go to somebody’s office or to somebody’s house, somewhere to close a deal in person, I’m gonna close that deal. And so long as I’m doing that everyone else is going to have to catch up with me. So everybody’s going to be coming into the office and doing so just to compete—for sales, for exposure—whatever. So I think that’s gonna trickle down to the rest of the market.”

VP Sales @ Genea Robert Vail on aligning incentives among stakeholders in the office: 

“The tenants bring a lot of great ideas to property teams all the time. It’s the job of the property team then to figure out how to navigate 5,000 different tech vendors to figure out which ones provide useful information, which ones are going to be there for the long term. That way we can actually make a business decision that’s going to last for the next five to 10 years as we lease up space. I think it’s a massive responsibility on the vendors to actually understand your value problem. That way you can actually educate a property manager who may not be versed in technology so that they can then educate their asset managers to spend the capital, to invest in the property, invest in the technology. That’s a long-winded way of saying there really has to be a partnership between everybody from the tenant, to the property team, to the vendors. We do have a responsibility as a vendor to make this easy for people to digest and make practical use of our services.”

This is just a taste of the hour-long conversation between Robert, Gary, L.D., Lee, and an excellent team of authors. As offices continue to change with the addition of new technology and ESG goals, we’ll continue to monitor, research, and highlight those changes in what is proving to be a pivotal year for offices. We hope to see you for our next webinar.

Editor and Co-Founder
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