Please tell us about Harrison Street
Harrison Street is a leading investment management firm exclusively focused on alternative real assets. Since its creation in 2005, the firm has specialised in senior housing, student housing, healthcare, life sciences, storage real estate and social and utility infrastructure. We have invested USD 41bn across these sectors across North America and Europe.
What is your role at Harrison Street?
I lead our European operations as well as sitting on boards for Harrison Street’s European funds responsible for the expansion of Harrison Street’s European strategies. We believe strongly in the alternative real asset sectors in Europe, and their tremendous growth potential.
What is your perception of technology in real estate?
Five years ago, in a well- attended European conference, I was one of few senior executives present who identified technology as one of the biggest threats and opportunities to our industry. Five years on, the real estate industry still lags behind other sectors, but it has caught up massively in recent years – helped by forced adoption through the recent pandemic. Technology and the correct implementation thereof is one of the most important success factors of our generation of real estate leaders.
What has changed in the last 18 months?
At the beginning of 2020 the real estate industry was broadly speaking 10 years behind where it needed to be. It has caught up massively – but is still three to five years behind where it needs to be, in my opinion.
Alternative real assets are driven by demographic trends, which in turn are fuelled by rapidly evolving consumer trends. The pandemic has accelerated the rate of adoption of technology by both consumers and businesses and has in a relatively short period of time accelerated the rate of proptech adoption.
No sector exemplifies this increased rate of adoption more than build to rent, where technology has lubricated the whole experience during COVID.
During lockdown, people have needed to interact more with their buildings and local environment. Technology has hugely increased the ability for experiential initiatives to be executed and for property managers to execute a very difficult and rapidly changing environment within their communities.
Can you give an example of this experience in practice?
We use Utopi, which describes itself as a data integration platform that provides real-time insight and analysis across a portfolio. Its dashboards aggregate operational and environmental data from sensors to benchmark performance.
Importantly, Utopi – which we use in properties we have invested in and which are managed by Apache and Moda – also allows residents in these buildings to track its performance, allowing people to see the benefits of managing, for example, heating and lighting.
We have also introduced Utopi to our student accommodation assets and saved 8% to 10% in energy costs at these buildings
– which is incredibly accretive to our funds.
Where does ESG fit into your vision of technology?
We have a dedicated team of four people within Harrison Street, enhancing ESG performance across all of our fund products and within our corporate organisation. Technology plays a key part in every aspect of our ESG strategy
– from capturing data to driving new building and operational techniques to optimising performance.
ESG is one of our key priorities across our global firm and is central to our investment and deal selection strategies.
How important is technology in life sciences real estate?
Life sciences operate at the crossroads between large pharma, technology and education. Research and development incubators have technology at their heart, and are pivotal to how life sciences real estate functions. Incubators are collaborative spaces with multiple tenants on varying lease lengths – collaborating together towards a common goal of delivering world-leading life science solutions. Technology is the catalyst that makes this possible.
We are only just beginning to realise the potential of technology in life sciences and real estate as a whole.
At Harrison Street we want to be at the forefront of technology adoption and to always be exploring ways to improve our communities which we invest in.