For someone who has been working in real estate for over 10 years like I have, this year’s BOMA International Conference & Expo proved an incredible opportunity to hear from and speak to industry leaders about new and developing trends. And, take the time to talk (and geek out about) the future. For those of you who weren't able to make it out to Nashville this year, here are 4 trending topics that got a lot of airtime and my perspective on them.
1. Technology is actively disrupting CRE, and those who take risks will come out ahead.
This year’s BOMA conference kicked off with a great panel about technology disrupting and transforming CRE. Valuable insights came fast and furious from the impressive trio of speakers, including Jim Whalen from Boston Properties, Tommy Russo from Akridge, and Steve Weikal from MIT. Jim gave Comfy a shoutout, and they discussed how workers have become so accustomed to technology in their personal lives and are beginning to expect the same on-demand access and service in the workplace. Unfortunately, most workplaces are currently falling short of those expectations.
The good news is, the emerging world of IoT and other building technologies now enable the connecting of devices and systems that were previously unable to communicate with each other. And while trying and testing these new technologies may feel nebulous to some, companies will quickly realize that those who take risks will ultimately be the leaders in the competitive marketplace. As twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly stated in their opening keynote, “Don’t be afraid of doing the hard things. The greatest achievements of mankind came from purposely doing the hard things.”
2. Coworking (like the "preteen" that it is) is just starting to mature.
As Kay Sargent of HOK so eloquently explained, the coworking phenomenon has only been around for 12 years and is still very much in its ‘prepubescent' stage. And just as you would expect from a preteen, we should anticipate some serious changes to happen in this maturing space over the next few years. An interesting fact Kay noted was that while coworking only represents <1% of the CRE market, it is by far the fastest growing segment of the industry.
So what’s driving this growth? Along with their expectations for high tech, today's employees want to have workplace choices, community, and flexibility. In addition to shared workspace providers like WeWork, larger companies are now starting to offer coworking as a way to attract top talent, improve productivity, and even reduce costs.
3. Who’s gonna run the world...robots or millennials?
In the “Future of the Workplace” session, Jodi Williams and Jeanne Wood from leading design consultancy CallisonRKTL addressed a question that makes some of us squirm, “In the next 5 - 20 years, will the workforce be ruled by robots or millennials?” (Side note: I think my colleague, Drew DePriest, nailed the correct answer here.)
The reality is, the workforce is changing and the demographics and motivations of different generations are impacting how and where people work. Since it’s becoming easier and easier to work from anywhere, it will become increasingly important for CRE to consider and improve the occupant—and tenant—experience. Creating spaces where people are engaged and motivated, places where they actually want to be will be key and will be made possible by providing leading-edge, engaging technology.
4. More data + more insight = better buildings.
During the opening session, Sara Neff and Eric Duchon announced an exciting new program called BOMA W2 (as in “w-squared”.) The program challenges those responsible for commercial buildings to track their water and waste consumption and the related expenses as a way to better identify opportunities for improvement, reduce operating expenses, and minimize waste.
Programs like this—with guidance from industry leaders like Sara and Eric—confirm the fact that in today’s CRE market data is critical. Whatever the unit of measurement, exciting new technologies are emerging on the market that allow building owners and managers to better understand how their spaces are performing and being utilized, making it easier to optimize for efficiency, improve the occupant experience, and of course, stay competitive in the market.
In conclusion, there's a lot of change in the CRE space and it was particularly exciting to be in Nashville, a city that is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s next premier live and work destinations, to experience it all. Nashville has the right combination of culture, passion, and belief to be a strategic hub for business and innovation for years to come. It's a true model for today’s smart cities and CRE communities, because Nashville is actively working to embrace and implement smart building technologies.