For the office market what we’re seeing is that there’s currently enough of it already built. Some consultants are encouraging companies to downsize their offices – do more in the same amount of space. Companies are also generally avoiding long term leases. Owners are offering more benefits along with their leases.
We watched a video of the Googleplex which is Google’s headquarters. They have more amenities than you can imagine. They have free lunch from something like 18 full service cafes. They grow their own food on site. They have places to take naps. They have free electric rental cars. And they have lots of places to collaborate.
The thing with Google is that it’s probably the exception rather than the rule. Few companies would feel it’s justified to go to such great lengths to retain a demographic of employee. No doubt Google’s employee loyalty is much higher than many other companies. Everyone has to stop and think about what business they are in. It’s definitely possible to create a great work environment without extravagance.
The trends affecting all the topics we cover are the movement toward cloud computing and mobile device applications. So office spaces are less needed with workers that can work from anywhere (not just in the office or at home).
Most of the younger talent is part of the Millennial Generation (aka Generation Y). While Baby Boomers were traditionally into corporate advancement and corner offices, Millennials want more collaboration and equity. The thought is that if you’re going to make people get in the car and drive, there should be a purpose other than having to sit in a cubical and attend an occasional weekly meeting. The office should be more like a living room or coffee shop.
Another big trend is flex space. That’s space you can use for office and convert into something else depending on the need. Planning for that kind of space is a little different and should be marketed carefully. Personally, I wouldn’t put “flex space” on a floor plan because most people haven’t heard of it.
Sustainability and green building are close enough that I’ll mention them both together. Obviously the big trend is government endorsement for LEED. And while LEED is a good standard, it’s not all inclusive. It doesn’t cover things like the PassiveHaus approach. It’s not fully considerate of the cradle to cradle approach. It’s not concerned with net zero energy. And it doesn’t take into consideration the role of landscaping and storm water management. I’ve heard there’s a landscaping score in the works.
It seems like the main trend in sustainability is toward transparency. Right now, just about every company is claiming to be sustainable. One difference though is that before it was purely for public relations intentions. Now, companies are finding cost savings through reducing, reusing and recycling at different points along their supply chains.
Also with transparency, one big reason the real estate market has been reluctant to embrace sustainability is because consumers haven’t. Developers build what consumers want. Many of them offer sustainable upgrade features and consumers opt not to purchase them.
Another important trend in sustainability is measurement. It’s one thing to claim sustainability but another to be able to give exact numbers for return on investment. That’s one reason solar power hasn’t taken as much as it could. People don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of installing solar panels (nevermind that some cities have zoning laws making it difficult to do so) if it’s going to take 20 years to recoup the expense. Why not wait 5 years and see if the technology improves enough to get that time down to 5 or 10 years?