Are the times changing?

There is no escaping that recent measures will change the way that people go around their daily work for good. ‘Are you on teams or hangout?’ or ‘I will send you the zoom link’ is becoming the norm. For me, it is questionable if Teams will continue at their record-breaking 2.8 billion meeting minutes in one day once we are back to some form of normality but the ideology of some business functions continuing online is here to stay.

The point is, people and organisations have had no choice other than to adapt to the situation they have found themselves in quickly and the Commercial Real Estate (CRE) industry as a whole is no different. Projects are still ongoing due to lease events and many professions will likely use this as an opportunity.

More specifically, we think that COVID will be the fast-forward button to technology usage across the market and perhaps the perfect time for the masses to understand how using technology will streamline processes and challenge those teething issues in our beloved industry.

We first touched on it back in 2019 and here are three things to note from our experiences over the last month. Yes, a whole month.

Virtual Reality (VR)

There is no other place to start really!

Many of our projects are in the due diligence phase and likely to be close to the business end of the project once normality returns. The adoption and implementation of virtual building tours by certain Landlords (usually powered by Matterport) have enabled us to carry on during this and show ‘long list’ opportunities to clients with a view of being able to pick up the shortlist (in person tour) further down the line.

This is definitely here to stay — one centralised CRE library of buildings! Sure, there will always be a need for the final ‘in-person’ tour but continuing to do the early research remotely will only increase efficiency. Not to mention sustainable practice (thank me later RICS) but also time efficiency and cost savings across the board.

However, this can only be done indefinitely if there is mass participation from all as soon as possible including all buildings and Landlords! It has to become the norm.

This is a call to arms! Please invest in VR and not brochures!! Once generated, they are easily modified and always there as a tool for future marketing.

We appreciate that there is a cost associated to this but could easily be done instead of wasting money and material on marketing brochures that are just thrown in the bin. There you go, we said it!

Furthermore, we are seeing this technology underpinning the second phase of projects by allowing occupiers to envisage prospective buildings once fitted and operational. It has the ability to show exactly what something will look like. Once buildings have been selected for design then VR can be used to show how different concepts and layouts can work, without all the site visits.


COVID is reinforcing the mantra that data is king in CRE. Organisations that utilise data as part of their business functions, in our opinion, seem to be getting it right. Whether that be; ongoing projects, future pipeline or basic organisation.

There are two sides to this coin for SHB. Firstly, our beloved CRM system. We have long paved the way for recording both our successes and failures (to learn) as a company and this system enables us to record and manage our processes throughout each project lifecycle. It allows us to understand where occupiers are moving and why. There is a natural value in this for Landlords who want to know who is out looking for spaces that are applicable to what they have on the market or what is coming up.

There is also no question that our system has enabled us to continue business as usual with a full house (of staff) and allowed the team to feel connected through another platform (away from the obvious), whilst also providing our surveying team the tools needed to advise live projects and generate new business.

Secondly; we are expecting to see the benefits and further adoption of data results on future occupancy and the utilisation of space when we go back to normal. Occupiers that collect information about their operations over a period of time will make our advice on business cases more relevant and reliable.

A constant from everyone during COVID is ‘working remotely has proven to occupiers that we will probably not need as much space as anticipated’.

But what does that actually mean? Is there an ability to underpin that statement with facts to build into cash flow and long-term strategy? This is easily done.

The use of occupancy sensors and workplace consultancy projects can prove how much space is needed moving forward or if any more space is actually needed at all?! — possibly allowing you to stay put and save money with no moving costs. Our advice is very simple, generate this data now and you will see the benefits further down the line; financially and operationally.

Internet of Things

There is an endless list of what this can encompass. To make it relatable to what we do on a daily basis, it is the need for easy access to Building Surveys/ Management Records and for building to implement building sensors.

If there has ever been a time for Landlords and Managing Agents to organise building documentation and have it to hand, it's during COVID! The industry has historically been mocked for its inefficiencies and this is an opportunity to sort it out in SHB’s view.

By not having the correct information for any occupier to do their due diligence on whether an opportunity is viable, it will often put pressure on overall programme timings and thus, the deal. By creating a centralised, immutable network for your building that is accessible to anyone involved; it will reduce waiting on people in the chain, the inefficiencies in the transaction and have a positive impact on end-users. We already see this with the larger landlords with the larger buildings, it needs to filter down to the medium and smaller buildings that are just as important. We promise this will be mutually beneficial as having all information in one place will enable aspects such as Licence to Alter packs to be turned around quickly and Design Concepts to be finalised quicker.

In addition, building sensors that track occupancy and have the ability to close down energy functions should be mandatory and should be implemented ASAP and connected to a central internet portal for all occupiers to access. Offices all around the world are currently not being used but many buildings energy systems have not been adapted to encompass this and occupiers are typically paying for it. One way to caveat that is to put in a sensor that can track when people are using the building and not. This will reduce the energy output of the building and making it more sustainable. Outputs should be accessible to all occupiers for transparency and any savings should be passed onto occupiers in the service charge, improving end-user experience.

This concept is often linked to smart buildings and will benefit landlords by saving on energy across the portfolio and having the ability to reduce outputs in buildings and whole portfolios.

Paving the way for the future

As we touched on back in 2019. Technology in CRE has needed an excuse to break barriers and change processes. COVID-19 could well be that catalyst and SHB have been using what we have to hand internally and externally to continue business as usual.

This is just a brief note to highlight what we have been finding useful and what we think should be mandatory moving forward. There is no escaping that there will be more change coming through the adoption of AI and the ability for machine learning, but that is for another day…

To be continued…

By Jason Pilkington- Senior Surveyor.

Check out our previous blog on Covid-19 by Simon Blair & Andy Guntrip.

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