Agents Challenged to Meet Demand for Smarter Buildings

New ways of working mean agents leasing and selling office space must keep up to date with the latest technology and workplace trends or risk being unable to shift outdated buildings.
But a project services expert, whose team works with agents and clients to devise new and up-to-date building use, says agents should ensure they are fully aware of tenants' needs.  Adding value to owners' buildings makes them more attractive sales and leasing prospects, Robert Sloan, Victorian Director of Colliers International Project Services team, says.
 "It’s important that agents have at their disposal the right tools to demonstrate their understanding of their building, and what solutions are available that respond to the current market needs," Robert says.
 "Agents would find it very worthwhile to use construction and design advisory services to ensure that any opportunities for improvements to their building are identified early, making their tenancies more attractive.  We believe that this ‘value-add’ and proactive service could be used more in the market."
With the days of rows of identical desks long gone, flexible, task-based layouts mean different demands on buildings.  For some companies this is driven by economics – so-called "hot desking" means fitting staff into a smaller space with fewer desks, all shared, so none sits idle when staff are out of the office.
But for others it is a means of working more efficiently.  Andrew Tracey, CBRE's regional director, office services, says his agency is moving to activity-based working in Melbourne, as it has in Sydney and Los Angeles, to provide a more flexible working environment with desks, softer sitting areas, stand-up working areas and collaborative space.
He compares this with the changes in libraries, where everyone used to be in corrals and even talking was discouraged. Now university libraries are about interaction and collaboration.
But the ability to create such flexible zones creates new demands which agents must ensure their buildings can meet, Andrew says.
"The environment a lot of these people are trying to create is flexibility to work in different ways than the way we have worked before.  It's about being able to utilise new technology efficiency and being able to work the way we want to work.
"The buildings that we are developing and bringing to the marketplace have to be able to cope with different working environments – for example air-conditioning, you might have a greater density of people in certain areas at certain times," Andrew says.  
Robert says  tenants are looking for open, clear, floor plates.  They prefer side building cores, maximum telecommunication connectivity and mobile reception, and flexible and zoned mechanical and lighting systems.
Also, there may be Building Code compliance issues to be resolved.  For example, the required toilets may previously have been calculated to service one tenant over several floors – possibly no longer compliant with a single tenant on each floor.
Disability access and disabled toilet provisions should also be addressed, along with end-of-trip bicycle and change room facilities – both in increasing in demand..
In such a competitive, incentivised market, proactive agents – those who ensure their clients' buildings are compliant, rather than reactive when potential tenants  discover a shortfall – have an advantage, Robert says.
Andrew says agents can help companies plan how they will be working in the next decade or more by showing buildings with such flexibility.  "It is about staying up with the trends so we can deliver the right kind of environment.  If you are putting product into the marketplace you need to put product in the market place that people want."
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