01 Nov 2017
In the property industry, we understand better than anyone the importance of laying down strong foundations to guarantee the longevity of our assets. We cannot limit that to steel and concrete, but must understand how the digital foundations that we lay will be paramount to the future success of our properties.
Tom McClellan, National Business Development, WiredScore, a UK-based independent digital connectivity rating scheme for commercial property, shares his thoughts on what we can do now to ensure the industry not only survives, but thrives in years to come.
The changing face of work
Over the past few decades, there has been major disruption in our working habits due to the increased use of technology. Where we were once tied to our desks with desktop computers and Ethernet cables, mobile devices, WiFi and the massive adoption of cloud software are driving an ethos of “anywhere working”. This has triggered a significant shift in the demands on our buildings – and the rate of change does not look like it will slow down anytime soon.
The workplace was revolutionised in the 1980s, with desktop computers appearing in offices and new network technologies serving growing globalisation. Over the past thirty years, the emergence of new technologies has further necessitated the need for buildings to provide more robust IT infrastructure.
From intranet, to email and the World Wide Web, connectivity soon became essential in the workplace. And with the rise of cloud services and Space as a Service (SaaS) applications, it is no longer just download speeds that are important to a business. There is even greater pressure on the digital infrastructure as strong upload speeds underpin core business operations in the cloud.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will take the role of technology in the workplace one-step further. The Smart Office will enable landlords and employers alike to create environments tailored to employees and their wellbeing, helping them attract talent and increase productivity.
The future of the built environment
This new smart technology will dramatically change the way we design buildings, and collect and use the data it generates. As landlords look to provide an intuitive and seamless experience for their occupiers, based on personalised use of the office, data will prove essential in determining how they can both create the most value from the space, and use it most efficiently. We are going to see underutilised space acted on and invested in to optimise every square foot and provide the best experience of the building.
To achieve this, landlords will need to capture and visualise the data to generate practical insights into the use of the building. IoT sensors will enable landlords to capture continuous data thus supporting real time optimisation of the building and improving the lived in experience.
But it will not just be optimising existing building elements that will enable landlords and developers to create buildings which will stand the test of time. Driverless cars and drones are just two exciting technologies that will not only transform buildings, but the entire urban landscape and the way we engage with services.
Analysts have already predicted that the complete adoption of self-driving car shares may mean that no one in the US will own a personal car by just 2030 – negating the need for parking spaces - while Amazon drone deliveries will introduce fresh challenges in the short term for collecting parcels and raise questions around whether buildings will soon need a reception on the roof.
A backbone to support future innovation
There is no end to the diverse innovative technologies that we can hypothesise will change our office spaces and the way we work over the next few decades. This makes planning for them in existing developments difficult and the task of future-proofing property can be a daunting one.
While it is clear landlords will not immediately want to convert their car park or build a rooftop reception, they can start building a secure foundation now that will support their tenants no matter what technology trends arise.
Connectivity is at the root of almost every element of the modern business and those technologies are predicted to innovate further the way we live and work. It is therefore important developers and landlords start making the investments now to guarantee their occupiers will have access to resilient and cost-effective internet.
In the past, it has been hard for landlords to ascertain the state of connectivity in their existing properties, how it compares to the rest of market and whether it will meet the needs of their occupiers’ businesses - let alone plan to meet the future needs of their occupiers.
What can we do now?
With over 80% of the existing building stock likely to still be in place in 2050, it is essential for landlords to consider the implications of this change to the built environment. This is no mean feat, with no two futurologists able to agree on a hypotheses for what the future of work will look like. However, they are in agreement that digital connectivity will be at its heart.
Developers and landlords cannot hide their head in the sand. Instead, they need to understand the technology trends that will transform tenants’ requirements of buildings and ascertain what investments they can make now to guarantee their properties will be fit for purpose in 2050.
Landlords, developers, ISPs and local authorities alike must decide what future they want for their communities, and collaborate to build environments that will not just survive until 2050, but will remain beacons of how planning and investing in these digital foundations can successfully future proof buildings to remain relevant and attractive.
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