Pivoting Toward the Future in Post-Covid-19 Environment

BOMA International President and COO Henry Chamberlain sought to answer those questions in his State of the Industry address during Tuesday’s keynote session.

Chamberlain reviewed key indicators of the industry’s economic health before pivoting to how commercial real estate looks during the COVID-19 pandemic. As anyone who’s prepared a building for reentry knows, it looks very different.
Abundant signage warns you to wash your hands and maintain a safe distance from others. Marked one-way paths lead you in and out of the building. Elevator capacity is clearly indicated. These measures might not be necessary forever, but the COVID-19 crisis may yet drive some changes in what people want from buildings. “We’re going to create new kinds of highly productive spaces,” Chamberlain said. These spaces will likely include a few common threads, Chamberlain noted:
  • Touchless technology is poised to grow. People are leery of shared surfaces right now, which could drive greater adoption of touchless technology for things like opening doors, turning on lights or selecting a floor in an elevator. Wearable technologies like access badges or phone credentials are likely to increase in popularity for the same reason.
  • More buildings will adopt people-tracking sensors. Internet of Things technologies can show you the paths people take through your building and highlight hot spots where people congregate. During a pandemic, those are important things to know to mitigate the spread of disease.
  • Health and wellness will become a bigger priority. Commercial real estate professionals are already starting to prioritize greater cleaning and disinfection to keep people safe. Over the long term, tenants will want increased access to daylight, outside air and the outdoors.
And, as Chamberlain notes, in survey after survey, tenants widely report missing being in their offices. “The office environment allows that collaboration, that high performance, that creativity,” and offices aren’t going anywhere, even if it takes more innovation on the part of property professionals to keep things going. “This is what commercial real estate does better than anything. We create value, we drive change and we’re always leaders.”