We assembled a panel of industry experts to tackle this month’s question.
Here’s what they had to say.
Reid Brockmeier, principal, managing director, Gensler (Morristown)
Gen Z is reaching the workforce as the nature of work shifts from a knowledge economy into a creative economy. As we move in the direction of robotics and the automation of routine tasks, Gen Z’s work profile will be in the creative class. It is not just a generational issue but it is the changing nature of work. Commercial real estate design will need to develop workplaces that inspires ideas and insights that lead to innovation and fosters creativity, where the human experience is a differentiator. Every space will ultimately be measured by the experience it delivers.
Michael Buldo, principal, Marchetto Higgins Stieve Architects (Hoboken)
Generation Z will usher in a commercial design renaissance. The traditional stores will need to offer not only products, but connections and experiences. There will be a tremendous surge in online commerce resulting in a demand for distribution centers. This is a group that has been raised on overnight or same-day delivery of just about anything. Current office designs will be replaced by integrated offices, where you will have people from different companies sitting together in a communal environment, where ideas and concepts are openly collaborated on. Every generation shifts the thinking and mindset of the previous one. Only now are we slowly conforming. Hold on … it’s going to be a fast ride.
Francis Cooke, architecture design principal, NY metro, and Kelly Bacon, principal, national workplace lead, strategy plus, AECOM (Clifton)
Generation Z will have an expectation of advanced technology in their working environment. As contemporary office space is being impelled forward along the technological spectrum from “flexible” to “agile” to “responsive” to “intuitive,” Generation Z will expect the same “on demand” experience in their workplace as they do in every other area of life. The impact on office planning will be substantial. The relative fit-out cost split between FFE and IT will continue to shift toward a greater investment in IT. Future potential tenants will likely be looking for smaller scale spaces as they will not want to sacrifice the built quality of their working environments. Given this fact, expect to see more compact planning and multiuse space to meet the needs of the organization. Generation Z is also quite heath-conscious with a tendency to “blur” work/life issues as opposed to simply “balancing” them. We can expect to see enhanced offerings for fitness, high-quality food and other amenities as key features of the office.
Michael J. Demarco, CEO, Mack-Cali Realty Corp. (Jersey City)
Generation Z’s impact on commercial real estate design will be significant, as this group is very clear about what they want from their offices, entertainment and shopping venues. They are going back to their historical roots, valuing connectivity over exclusivity, and looking for design that is functional, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing. This generation appreciates a connected, walkable and fluid urban environment, and they expect access to lifestyle amenities that promote socializing and creativity — not just in their offices, but in the surrounding neighborhoods, too. This has made the bike share programs, dog parks, farmers markets and other outdoor amenities prosper. The demand for amenitized commercial neighborhoods from Generation Z will have an impact not just on the building’s designs, but on the design of the public spaces as well. It’s important to create an inviting atmosphere around your buildings so that people enjoy coming to the area, and to promote a live/work/play environment.
Lori Klein, principal, Posen Architects (West Orange)
I accompanied a client to a major manufacturer’s headquarters this spring with discussion centered on Generation Z — who are they and what is their impact on commercial interiors? How our clients see themselves competing for talent and adapting their culture to meet the challenges of this new generation drives design. Standardization will be out the window, trends come and go; but thoughtful design with flexible occupancy strategies will never go out of style. Design that supports a multitude of work postures and settings — with the right tools and embedded and portable technology — results in spaces that spark creative thinking and the exchange of ideas important to Gen Z. The design should incorporate both open and private spaces, natural light, transparency with glass enclosures, biophilic references, visual stimulation, acoustical materials and creature comforts in a sustainable setting that promotes wellness — all with a “cool vibe” and ability to evolve. The office should be a destination as work/life lines are blurred.
Michael Sommer, executive VP of development, Edison Properties (Newark)
While many regard Generation Z as a simple extension of the millennial cohort, they are in fact a completely unique group that will dramatically influence workplace design in the coming years. Much has been made about the collaborative benefits of open office plans. Gen Zers, however, have grown up communicating through technology and actually prefer utilizing dedicated private spaces such as huddle rooms in the office. This group is also quick to embrace cutting-edge tools and expects employers to continuously incorporate the latest and greatest into their workflow. At our Ironside Newark project, we’re leveraging the City of Newark’s unmatched dark fiber network to facilitate the technological connectivity that Generation Z desires while also offering unique, highly customizable indoor and outdoor spaces to suit tenants’ evolving needs. This new generation is already entering the workforce and the real estate industry will need to adapt in order to effectively attract and retain forward-thinking tenants.