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Offices move from battery hen to free-range scenario

[Photo: Studio Republic/Unsplash]

Integrating technological solutions into buildings will help make them sustainable and healthy, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s Thinking Cities briefing, which was held online yesterday.

“When thinking of offices we are moving from a battery hen scenario to a free-range scenario,” said Stewart Taylor, senior director advisory and transaction services, CBRE. “The four pillars are sustainability, technology, wellbeing and being part of the city.”

The demand from occupiers for better places to work in, which had already been growing, has been accelerated by the pandemic.

“There was an emerging trend for the employee becoming more important, but now it has strengthened,” he said. “There’s a greater demand for flexibility, underpinned by digital platforms.”

A recent CBRE survey revealed that 85% of respondents believe Covid-19 will have a significant or a very significant impact on their real estate strategies.

Companies want to do the right thing

Companies and landlords also “want to be seen to be doing the right thing,” Taylor said. “The office is now seen as a reflection of the company’s brand. That old idea had disappeared but now it’s come back again.”

It is buildings that can make a big difference, to the environment, to tenant satisfaction and to a company’s image.

“In order to meet carbon reduction targets, we need to make buildings count, as they account for 40% of emissions,” said Cees van der Spek, public affairs and global corporate relations director, Edge Technologies.

There is another advantage to technology-rich, sustainable buildings, which is particularly crucial in the post-pandemic phase to encourage tenants to go back the office. 

Health and wellbeing are important, of course, but a crucial aspect is that “buildings that are changing for the better are also more fun, which means that people want to be in them,” he said.

Office buildings are becoming more part of the city, more connected to the local community and also more transparent, sometimes literally.

“Offices are becoming less isolated and closed-in and more open, as you can see in our building for ING or the project we’re currently doing for ABN Amro,” said van der Spek. “Even in banks you can now see people working.”