Serviced office space or Real Estate as a Service, utilizes a customer-focused approach, providing amenities, flexibility, scalability and a sense of community that keeps users engaged over the long term.
NAIOP (Commercial Real Estate Development Association) defines Real Estate as a Service as “a business model that provides clients with scalable access to commercial space and amenities that can be used on demand and in different configurations according to clients needs. Real Estate as a Service can serve multiple business objectives such as filling underutilized properties, providing traditional tenants with the option to flexibly expand their access to space, and providing landlords with additional revenue.”
The Real Estate as a Service model has been trending in popularity for a number of years but was greatly accelerated by the pandemic in Q1 of 2020. Tenants are a commercial landlord’s most important asset and the approaches to maintaining and understanding tenant satisfaction have been analyzed and debated for decades. The millennial generation’s entrance into the workforce followed by Generation Z have also contributed to the types and style of amenities that were sought by companies looking to attract a vibrant, ambitious, and diverse talent pool.
One of the companies that many landlords partner with to oversee on-site curated amenities customized for each buildings tenant mix is BetterSpaces. Pre-COVID, their business model was focused on a physical presence in a property ranging from hosting a lobby event, such as a ping-pong tournament to a pop-up yoga surfing class in a vacant suite. Since the pandemic impacted the number of employees working from the office, they adapted their business model to fit the new reality. According to Keith Angell, Co-Founder & CFO of BetterSpaces, “examples of how Landlords and Companies have modified their tenant/employee amenity programs for remote workers and for those that transitioned back to the office include:
- Landlords’ focus on amenities that reinforce safety and physical/mental well-being of tenants including swing space, remote wellness classes, touchless room access, and room capacity sensors. BetterSpaces worked in tandem with its landlord customers to adjust its amenities offerings.
- BetterSpaces doubled it’s offering of live daily classes, provided them 100% digitally via app, and made all available for 24/7 viewing. They also increased programming around mental health and other current issues employees are facing like isolation and childcare. For example, they led an incredible program with psychologist Dr. Madeline Levine on Balancing Family, Mental Health and Work from Home.
- BetterSpaces repurposed most of it’s in-building common spaces to flex space, to serve that new tenant need.
- BetterSpaces added new features to its app offering, including food ordering, privatized commuting service, and elevator fast-pass to help improve the employee experience coming back into the office.
- BetterSpaces expanded its customer base to include more enterprise customers seeking team-building classes to keep employees connected.
According to one NYC landlord, “Now is the time to make tenants feel safe and welcome in our buildings – because this is when they need it the most, will appreciate it the most, and will remember it the most.
The key thing we’ve been focusing on is making employee’s feel safe and secure coming back to the office. 76% of the employees we surveyed responded that public transportation is the biggest concern. Removing uncertainty is the key, so we are using technology to communicate and remove uncertainty planning your day around things like commuting, eating and waiting in the lobby for the elevator.
As occupants come back it’s crucial they have a positive experience the first time and want to come back.”
One tech company example helping employees feel safe and secure coming back to the office is Genea. Genea recently released new safety features within their access control platform called Safe Workplace. With Safe Workplace, you can keep COVID at bay by:
- Screening users for symptoms using a daily custom questionnaire
- Requiring users to register for access before they head into the office
- Setting capacity restrictions if operating under limited capacity
- Perform contact tracing if the need arises
- Temporarily suspend user access permissions.
If you missed their webinar last week, make sure you watch the recording.
An industry-leading example of an innovative landlord pivoting their development of a digital platform is RXR Realty. RXR is the third largest real estate owner in New York City, with over 25 million square feet of space across the tri-state area, including some of the most iconic addresses in Manhattan. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the company needed a way to integrate new safety measures for tenants when its buildings reopened for business.
RXR and its Chairman and CEO Scott Rechler are recognized as thought leaders in the industry, with a commitment to social responsibility and civic engagement. In early 2019, Scott began an initiative to transform RXR properties into smart buildings through the creation of the RXR Digital Lab. Scott had the foresight to partner with Microsoft and McKinsey & Co. to create a proprietary application for their tenants focused on the optimization of the building and its workforce. The company planned to use the platform to provide a more hospitality-focused experience for occupants.
RXR developed a plan to leverage IoT to monitor mechanical systems, air quality, etc. The devices would feed into a cloud-based platform where the data would be analyzed, powering real-time info dashboards for tenants and property management. This same platform would support a multitude of services, including notifications, news and “digital concierge” offerings for occupants – such as housekeeping services and food and beverage delivery.
Everything changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 22, 2020 a state-wide stay-at-home order shut down all nonessential services in New York. During the first few weeks of the shutdowns, there were more open-ended questions than factual responses. Many people postulated that businesses would reopen in a few months. Although it was quite obvious the pandemic would change day-to-day business in the near term, the unanswerable question was how exactly would it change and what aspects were temporary and which would be permanent.
Rechler targeted Memorial day as the deadline for launching the new platform. The team realigned their objectives and focused on the platform which was renamed RXWell. It was decided that the platform would be the core means of monitoring building conditions, coordinating essential services, communicating with tenants and occupants, and screening everyone who entered a building for signs of COVID-19.
The original planned IoT and building management systems would remain fundamental pieces, in addition to news updates and notification functionality. But COVID-19 focused the platform on critical datapoints and new features including:
- People counting – How many people are in a building and the various common spaces?
- Social distance detection – Determine if people are maintaining appropriate distances
- Face-mask detection – Enforce New York’s State mask mandate
- Air quality monitoring – Maintain standards that reduce the risk of transmission
- No-touch thermal sensors – Safely check all arriving individuals for fever
All of these individual datapoints have value and when combined they create a “Building Wellness Index”. Making this information available to their building occupants greatly increases the transparency between the Landlord and Tenants, informing their decision of when to safely return to their office space.
A comprehensive, data-driven set of tools to provide users with real-time information regarding a building’s overall wellness to instill a sense of confidence in the safety of reopening indoor activities. Insights include adherence to government-mandated public health capacity regulations; critical indoor environmental metrics such as CO2 and humidity, which can potentially impact COVID transmission; and enhanced building access protocols such as CDC-guided public health questionnaires and digital visitor management.
RXR has been diligent to ensure privacy with the information that is collected. All data is aggregated and not individualized. They focused on being transparent with their tenants, employing best practices and utilizing government thresholds as benchmarks.
There is a plan for continual improvement and multiple objectives for the next phase, according to Peter Smith, Vice President, Business Development for RXR Realty, “Including developing new solutions, enhancing the existing suite of solutions, rolling out the platform to more RXR buildings, and packaging the RxWell solution offering to take to the broader real estate marketplace.”
Longer term, the same resiliency that enabled the RXR Lab to rapidly pivot for COVID-19 means the RxWell platform will be viable after the pandemic. As Peter Smith explains, “The platform is built in a way that not only provides a near-term solution but also establishes a platform that can endure long beyond the impact of COVID-19 for RXR Realty and more broadly the real estate industry. “
Another great example of a NYC Landlord that has always maintained a stellar reputation in the marketplace and with NYC tenants is Fisher Brothers. The family owned privately held company has been involved with NYC real estate for 100 years and have always been innovators, adapting to market changes and maintaining their reputation for excellence in development. They recently announced the launch of a new entity, “Ease Hospitality“, which takes the hotel hospitality playbook and brings it to the next level. Although the concept was in the works prior to the pandemic, it was the perfect opportunity to incorporate all of the protocols required to safely return to an indoor work environment.
“Its not enough for a building to be a building anymore,” says Crystal Fisher, Managing Director of Commercial Portfolio at Fisher Brothers. “At Fisher Brothers, we are dedicated to continuous innovation with a unique approach to luxury amenities and hospitality. We’re implementing state-of-the-art technology to create the kinds of future-forward workspaces that we feel confident will meet the needs of our tenants and community – whether than be tomorrow or years down the line.
In 2021, we are launching a new project in collaboration with Rockwell Group that will enhance our tenant’s lifestyles. After strategizing how to best meet their unique needs morning, noon and night, it was important to us to embrace technology and innovation in all aspects of the hospitality experience. In addition to introducing touchless entry and thoughtful plant life that speaks to Rockwell Groups legendary design acumen, a custom mobile app that is fully integrated with sleek interior design will provide tenants with access to book private meeting spaces, fitness classes, catering and more.
Leading with virtual meeting capabilities that seamlessly integrate with physical meetings spaces to create hybrid meetings, our community and hospitality is not confined by four walls. Our buildings will offer tenants safe and welcoming communal areas as well as flexible meeting spaces ideal for in-person and virtual events. Technology will drive our ability to service the immediate needs of our tenants, redefining the office-space of the future with thoughtful, five-star hospitality.
This new venture is being launched with all of the expertise and dedication that Fisher Brothers is known to incorporate in all of their business lines. The initial site for this workplace solution is a 20,000 square feet space located at 1345 Avenue of the Americas and includes co-working flex space, meeting and event space tenant lounge, food service and a wellness component.
Fisher intends to rollout this concept portfolio-wide and throughout the industry, having already received very positive feedback from existing tenants and industry pundits. Key differentiators include the customized app-based technology allowing for hybrid virtual meetings with a human touch of a Workplace Experience Manager and A/V Manger onsite, in addition to the curated food and beverage service and wellness/fitness offerings.”
Landlords and Tenants are implementing a touchless experience for tenants, employees and visitors. Genea launched a fully-integrated cloud-based Access Control + Visitor Management system in January 2020. One of the key benefit to owners is that the system typically integrates directly with properties existing hardware, which allows for major enhancements in functionality of access control systems while being significantly more cost-effective.
Genea Access Control System benefits:
- Cloud-based system for control anywhere on the go
- Native HID mobile access for tenants and property teams (also works with Proxy)
- Tenant portals for adding and removing users and running reports
- Tiered admin levels to easily delegate workflows without giving up control
- Multiple-site controls for portfolio unification
- Exceptionally easy reporting and notification package
- Destination dispatch integration
- REST API for easy connection to other systems (tenant engagement apps, etc.)
- Direct service and support 24/7/365
- Native VM Module for touchless experience for tenants and guests
Genea’s Building Access Control is rolled out in NYC at 767 Third Avenue and 2 Gansevoort with the Landlord Sage Realty. Additionally, numerous tenants have implemented Genea’s access control solution throughout their corporate offices including DoorDash, Transferwise, on a global basis (Estonia, NYC, London, Budapest and Florida), Thoughtworks, Shopify and BetterCloud.
Schedule a demo for additional information on how Genea’s cloud-based platform provides solutions to help buildings prepare for tenants to safely return to the office.