We assembled a panel of industry experts to tackle our recent roundtable question.
Here’s what they had to say.
Jeremy Neuer, senior vice president, CBRE (East Brunswick)
The next frontier for amenities and technology in office buildings is clearly wrapped into two groups: IOT (internet of things) and driverless cars. How quickly landlords adopt technologies that provide an enhanced tenant experience will be dependent on how quickly tenants demand them. Some things that we can expect soon are scanners that read directly from smart phones, similar to what Amazon is experimenting with in its retail stores. These scanners will replace card readers, allowing tenants access to buildings and spaces that previously required card key access, as well as the ability to easily provide temporary access to visitors. Buildings will also need to adapt to heavier traffic through main entrances once driverless cars are more prevalent. Parking decks and surface lots will have a lesser importance once that happens and can be adaptively reused.
Stephen Card, regional director of mid-Atlantic, Rubenstein Partners (Philadelphia)
With today’s workforce increasingly chasing a high-quality, amenity-rich office environment, amenity packages have become integral in the success of an investment. Today, simply having a conference room and fitness center no longer makes you competitive, as tenants expect these at a bare minimum. Several factors have led to such demand, but at the forefront is tenants’ desire to attract and retain millennial talent. Further, the growth of co-working has pressured landlords to provide similarly rich amenity packages.
The amenitization phenomenon is most pronounced in suburban markets, where we believe there will be true “winners” (i.e. unique/rich amenities) and “losers” (i.e. commodity office). One way to stand out is to construct standalone, state-of-the-art amenity centers — providing a centralized location for dining, fitness/wellness, conference and collaborative working space — which we’ve done at several of our campuses. Our amenity centers typically feature campus coordinators, a number of food stations, coffee bars, full-length basketball courts, bike share programs and outdoor/balcony space. In New Jersey, we built a standalone amenity center at The Crossings at Jefferson Park in Whippany and we’re currently building one at Warren Corporate Center in Warren. We are undertaking similar projects at other suburban office assets in Atlanta and Indianapolis.
Tracey Kasper, principal and vice president of project management, Avison Young (Morristown)
From a design perspective, the key words are collaboration, flexibility and health and wellness — tenants are looking for collaborative space, flexible work locations and health and wellness areas including gyms, access to healthy food and drinks and quiet zones.
Technology budgets have increased and tenants are demanding related amenities that support their desire for flexibility and collaboration, including an abundance of USB and power stations and furniture solutions that support flexibility and technology.
We recently built a new open space for a large e-commerce client, customizable to accommodate more — or less — employees with additional technology features like mobile screens and movable displays. We also completed the new headquarters for a major law firm, which featured a 3,000-square-foot “lab” designed to promote collaboration and adjust to work styles — very unique for the legal profession. The space includes soft seating, bar height space, booths/long work tables and even game rooms for the staff.
Other requests from clients include audio/visual amenities for collaboration such as click share and touch screens and ergonomic modular furniture allowing individuals to change work modes.
Kyle Mahoney, vice president, The Garibaldi Group (Chatham)
The next generation of amenities are focused around collaborative common areas, where various tenants of the building cohabitate, strike up conversations and create new ideas outside the office. While the importance of collaborative areas for a single tenant’s office space is well-documented, the best amenity for the building is to invest in collaborative common areas where not only employees of a single office come together, but employees from dozens of offices come together, sit over a cup of coffee or lunch, toss a Frisbee, play table tennis, etc. These areas create an organic ecosystem for collaboration and innovation — and potentially the next great idea. While increasing the loss factor of a building may be a tough pill for any developer to swallow, these areas are exactly what the younger companies/employees are looking for, a different, unique, collaborative and creative space to nurture ideas and offer new perspectives.
Richard Gottlieb, president and chief operating officer, Keystone Property Group (Conshocken, Pennsylvania)
Driverless cars are one of the most significant near-term technological changes, and they will have a significant impact on worker productivity. Any driver with a long commute will be able to start working the moment they leave the house — taking phone calls, crunching numbers or coding from the back seat. While this may shorten the number of hours some people spend in the workplace, its impact on the office should not be overstated. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the virtual office doesn’t work, as people need direct interaction — even water cooler chatter — to exchange ideas and remain collaborative. Looking forward, we expect the most important sorts of amenities to be those of convenience. Across our properties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, we offer things like cafes and grab-and-go shops, oil changes and dry cleaning services. Bringing these sorts of services into the commercial property prevents workers from having to leave the office for a midday errand, which would cut down their office time at work and break their focus. For many employers, the most important amenities they can offer are those that prevent distraction, making workers happy and increasing productivity in the process.