Interview: Jason Margrave, Quintain
Can you please tell us about your role at Quintain? I run the company’s development team, which is responsible for the physical transformation of Wembley Park, an 85-acre mixed- use development on the land surrounding the national stadium. We have outline planning consent for 10.3 million sq ft of space, predominantly residential, where we have delivered circa 4,700 of a planned 8,500 units. There is also about 1 million sq ft of commercial office and half a million sq ft of retail and leisure amenities. We are halfway through completing the development and are already attracting over 17 million people a year to Wembley Park, which is more visitors than Covent Garden tube station per annum.My team’s remit at Wembley Park is very broad, and includes placemaking, design, planning, development viability, commercial leasing and the delivery of and interface with our Build to Rent product for Quintain Living. Outside Wembley Park, I am responsible for new business origination and acquisition. How has digital technology influenced the ongoing development of Wembley Park? Technology has really come into its own in the last 12 to 18 months as we have seen a real increase in momentum as the evolution of the project moves from the initial physical infrastructure to the digitalisation which surrounds and connects the physical space to its uses. This ecosystem is benefiting us from an operational and data- driven information perspective, while also enhancing the overall customer experience through convenience and quality of amenities and service.
In 2020 we appointed our first chief technology officer to bring together our ambitious building information, modelling and data capabilities and Quintain Living’s digital marketing, leasing and customer engagement platform, all underpinned by our integrated fibre network. Can you provide an example which brings this to life? In recent months we have implemented a Quintain Living App which, born out of residents’ feedback, gives them simple access direct from their smartphone to information and booking capabilities for retail and leisure amenities, visitor parking, events and activities across the campus, and offers and promotions. It also empowers residents to form their own social communities, such as dog-walking groups and sports clubs. To motivate consistent engagement and long-term engagement with the app, we have embarked on a gamification approach with our customers, such as offering prizes such as tickets for events at The SSE Arena, Wembley and discount vouchers for the most eco-conscious residents using the least energy. These initiatives have been very well received.We work closely with our residents, using their feedback to learn and continually improve our operations - good technology should be win-win for both parties. For example, providing residents with digital, contactless entry to their building is efficient, safe and secure for them, while enabling us to capture a lot of helpful real-time data by measuring utilisation of communal spaces at different times of the day. Over the course of the last 18 months and the pandemic, how has technology helped your commercial operations? Lockdown prevented in-person viewings, so we were able to bring our apartments and living experience direct to the phone, tablet or laptop of prospective tenants by creating a unique virtual tour. The technology and platform behind this capability was already in place.We had invested in a digital model of Wembley Park and together with our leasing system we were able to offer prospective residents a fantastic and successful alternative to an in-person tour. Through our website, viewers could submit their criteria for accommodation before receiving a tailored three-dimensional tour of rooms on offer, and all shared and amenity space of interest. Interest could be registered online, with the subsequent documentation process managed digitally, allowing residents to view, complete contracts and move in without visiting first. While the traditional in-person viewings returned when coming out of lockdown, this digital service remains popular for those people living far away for whom an initial remote viewing is more practical and time efficient. It also supports in-person viewings by allowing the Quintain Living team to show our nine developments across site digitally, from within the leasing office, before prospective residents shortlist the apartments they want to see. Which advances in digital technology are set to make the biggest impact on real estate over the next ten years? While Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been around for a while, we are only just starting to see it being used to its full potential. At Quintain, we are a vertically integrated developer and have been designing in BIM for several years. This has benefits across the whole business, from design and development through to operational efficiencies. For example, we are currently developing a digital twin of Wembley Park both above and below ground. This will enable us to make informed, real time decisions and factor in the long term operational and maintenance life-cycle costs at a decision stage, including the embodied carbon content. Secondly, the influence of generative design will grow significantly. Software with algorithms can be used very effectively when programmed with the key parameters such as planning and daylight. Without initially needing to engage with an architect, several iterative options can be assessed based on weighted criteria. We have already run a trial at Wembley Park using this process, it is a phenomenally clever tool which is going to become more sophisticated as it evolves and could have a big impact on our industry.