Page 26 — Property Management Quarterly — April 2021 A pproximately one year ago, COVID-19 was spreading worldwide, forcing buildings to shut down and people to work remotely. Tenant occupancy plummeted and even the most bustling skyscrapers were transformed into vertical ghost towns. While uncertainty consumed the commercial real estate industry, one thing was certain – things were about to drastically change. In most major metropolitan areas, such as Denver, commercial building managers implemented a variety of new safety and health protocols, including signage pro- moting social distancing best prac- tices, increased hand sanitization stations and increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces, such as eleva- tor buttons. The one thing missing from this new health and safety approach was the change that was set to have the biggest long-term impact – the increased implementation of tech- nology. Demand by property man- agers and buildings quickly grew as companies expedited or expanded their respective product portfolios to provide smarter tech-based solu- tions that checked every safety box while improving building efficiency. In the elevator industry, that meant introducing a variety of touchless, digital technologies that eliminated those worrisome touch points. After all, why spend so much time cleaning elevator but- tons when technology could be developed so an elevator passenger didn’t need to touch any buttons? According to a McKinsey Global Survey of execu- tives, COVID-19 increased the adoption of digi- tal technologies by several years, and many of these technological changes are here to stay. But deter- mining which technologies are simply a short- term fix and which ones have long-term staying power can be tricky, especially as it relates to elevator technologies. Prior to the pandemic, the com- mercial real estate industry had started implementing digital tech- nologies that limited touch points. Dispatching systems were being adopted where tenants and guests would simply input their floor des- tination into a lobby kiosk and the elevator would be selected for them and other passengers with similarly located destinations. During the pandemic, the eleva- tor industry took it one step fur- ther by developing technology that even eliminated touching the kiosk. Now, passengers could simply use a personal device to make their floor selection. It was an innovation many had been eagerly waiting for – you can do everything else with your phone, why not operate an ele- vator? But while multiple elevator companies introduced some form of this technology, there are some that appear to be short-term fixes. For example, one product introduction requires passengers scan a QR code sticker placed on the wall. While this option meets an immediate concern, it may not have value in a post-COVID-19 world due to its poor user experience and lack of sophis- tication. By comparison, there are apps that allow passengers to operate elevators via their smartphones or wearable devices. The technology has the capability to recognize a specific tenant once they enter a building and, based on the informa- tion previously provided to their profile, will have an elevator auto- matically selected for them and take them to their destination. Taking it one step further, prop- erty managers also can incorporate Internet of Things solutions that closely monitor elevator traffic and limit how many passengers can ride in an elevator, ensuring proper social-distancing measures are followed in adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations or if passenger caution extends beyond the pandemic – a scenario all property man- agers should be prepared to address. Beyond elevator technol- ogy that promoted social distancing and eliminated or greatly reduced touch points, many commercial property managers also turned to predictive analytics to help them be smarter in their building manage- ment approach. The elevator indus- try was late to the IoT and big data game, but has been making up for it in a big way with technology that can now predict when an elevator system or component is set to fail, revolutionizing how elevators are serviced moving forward. Another touchless solution that should be a fixture in commercial buildings moving forward is an air purifying device, which safely and continuously cleans elevators with no harmful byproducts while also reducing odors inside elevators. Another benefit to an air purifying system is there is no routine main- tenance or cleaning required. Tech I can remember grappling with the use of IBM Lotus Symphony and Excel decades ago. Sym- phony is long gone, and Excel still rules. I look back on that now and chuckle because, as difficult to learn as Excel once seemed, now co-workers say that I am the “Excel Queen” because of my familiarity with its abilities. Time marches on and so does change. Change puts its mark on everything within commercial real estate including architectural design, tenant expectations, ownership structures, fire codes, floor mea- surement standards and lending practices. As with everything else in the industry, the role of the property manager is evolving to meet the needs of buildings, owners and ten- ants. We’ve heard the same message repeatedly over the past several years. The message that the prop- erty manager needs to help tenants find employees; that our space is a service, not a commodity. We no longer have tenants, we have guests. Building occupants want the sophis- tication of property technologies integrated in management of their buildings. The reality is that the employee base is dwindling. Employers are vying for the best employees. Human resources groups are more involved in site selection now than tradition- ally has been the case. The location/ park/building is used as a draw to attract the best of the employee pool. Think about what technologies your property currently offers to tenants. With health and safety as a priority, building occupants prefer automatic doors, destination eleva- tors and touchless bathroom dispens- ers. They wish to have the ability to reserve socially distanced time in an on-site amenity, such as a fitness center. These technologi- cal expectations go beyond health and safety. Building occupants desire smart building systems that help to customize their personal experience, such as light control and air comfort. They want a variety of food choices delivered to them either by food trucks or other methods and to place orders from their phone. They wish to do their errands while at work, leaving more time on the weekend for other things. Mobile amenities that include services such as chiro- practor, laundry service or golf club regripping now can be scheduled and managed by the property via plat- forms like MOBLZ. Tenants expect to receive push notifications to alert them of upcoming property events. Proptech provides a higher level of desirability and sophistication to the property. So why, then, is identifying and implementing new technologies so difficult for property managers? Con- sider these three things: n Reduce operating expenses. A manager has a fiduciary responsi- bility to keep property costs down. Often, they find certain items cut from a proposed budget simply to keep operating expenses as low as possible for a well-run building. For this reason, they tend to be timid about adding expenses to the plan. While it may add a couple of cents to the bottom line to add a technology, managers may find the solutions pays for itself with efficiencies found in operations. Once the technol- ogy is implemented, the managers likely will find themselves with time available for other projects. Think about life before an electronic work order system. While there is a cost involved with this system that was not incurred prior to having it, the analytics provided by the system help a team be proactive in building repairs. n It ain’t broke. The building team has been running the property with- out use of the new technology up to this point, so a manager may find it difficult to visualize how much more efficient and/or cost-effective a prop- erty can be run using the new plat- form. Further, if the team members are too busy for implementation of the system, they need to understand that while it may take time for start- The rising role of tech in commercial real estate Tech for long-term solutions, not short-term fixes Becky Hanner Principal, Commercial Asset Services Adam Luckey National director, digital and repair sales, TK Elevator Please see Hanner, Page 28 Please see Luckey, Page 28 During the pandemic, many in the elevator industry developed technologies to eliminated touch points, including kiosks. Pictured here is TK Elevator’s wearable devices. With all the new property technol- ogies, how do property managers know which technology to imple- ment, and how do they present it to their owner for approval? The following are some things to consider: • Does the technology have finan- cial backing? • Is the technology robust? • Does the company fully under- stand the needs of commercial real estate? • Does it provide a good solution to the specific problem? • Is a trial run of the software available? • Will it be easy to implement? • Will an implementation ambas- sador be assigned to the team? • Will the software development team listen to concerns and make enhancements to the platform? • How many people are on staff and committed to providing ser- vice? • Is the service group outsourced or is it in-house? • Is there an app and how many versions have been approved? Is it available for Apple and Android devices? • Will there be hidden fees in the price? • Can the technology interface with other technologies used in the building? • Will it be relevant next year? • Will the company still be solvent in a few years? SELECTINGTHE RIGHTTECHNOLOGY