Can you please tell us about your role?
I am responsible for our hotel portfolio and operated real estate which incorporates around EUR 3.5bn AUM of managed and leased properties, including offices across Europe, the US and APAC. I spend a lot of time trying, testing and adopting technologies and services to make our portfolio as useful and efficient as possible, particularly across our trophy office assets.
What is your overall approach to adopting new technologies in your office assets?
It is a balance between being at the forefront of technology and the services we are providing our occupiers – for example, access access control and mobile apps – but at the same time the technology needs to be mature enough to be rolled out across the portfolio on a large scale. For example, at our flagship assets such as 22 Bishopsgate in London and Stories in Paris we committed to significant investment in a digital twin and the most advanced building operating systems. Across the rest of the portfolio we focus on simpler, more scalable technologies. A good example is embracing IoT and the digital connectivity of all our assets, such as automating data collection, which helps improve a building’s efficiency and sustainability.
How do you see the relationship between technology and ESG?
We see technology and ESG as being two sides of the same coin. Technology has a big role to play in tackling ESG commitment and helping reach targets and goals. The most obvious example is the monitoring and measurement of energy consumption to improve the carbon footprint of buildings. Regular and careful measurement of usage and engaging with facilities and property managers and, importantly, the tenants, increases understanding and drives everyone’s behavioural change.
How is this working in practice at 22 Bishopsgate, for example?
All the technology and systems of the building operate over a converged network and are connected to a self-learning fault detection and diagnosis system. This collects and analyses over one million data points per day on temperature, air, light, water and the flow of people with the aim of increasing energy efficiency, lowering operational costs and simplifying repairs.
These innovations will be fundamental to the operational team in delivering the commitments that have been set to ensure that 22 Bishopsgate remains at the forefront of successful productive spaces.
These commitments cover health, learning, inclusion and sustainability and are already being delivered: for instance, the energy for the building has been procured from 100% renewable sources.
Do you think that historically real estate has not been as quick or agile in adapting to new techniques as other industries?
Yes, and I think an illustration of this is the French word for real estate ‘immobilier’, for which the literal translation is ‘it does not move’! However, with so much new and exciting technology emerging for industry to embrace, there is a real opportunity to transform the way real estate is managed, moving from the old information silo systems to cloud-based and IoT technology which is making life much simpler. The pandemic has been a further catalyst for innovation, accelerating the way we think and behave. COVID has put pressure on real estate, forcing landlords and occupiers to consider reducing their footprint and improving quality and services, and the shift towards more mobile working where technology has a major role to play.
What are the most prevalent issues for the office which technology can help solve?
I think the first is better indoor connectivity. Understandably, tenants have increasingly high expectations for the best and most reliable internet connection, which is fundamental to their business.
It still surprises me how so many people still struggle with wi-fi connectivity in the office and yet enjoy a much better, more reliable experience working from home. This must and will improve – reliable indoor connectivity is a fundamental game-changer and will be the foundation of the office in 2030.
The second is automated data collection, which is absolutely essential to tackle ESG commitments. Accurate and efficient monitoring of buildings and how they are being used and interacted with is very important as the starting point for reducing energy consumption and driving down carbon.
Finally, how tenants access and interact with the building. In the future, the office worker will want a smooth, more streamlined journey through the office through their smartphone – which will replace keys, cash, and ID cards and remove unwanted friction from their daily routine.