When COVID-19 unceremoniously brought the real estate industry to a staggering halt, it was difficult to imagine a comeback as strong as the one we’re seeing right now. 

Property owners and operators were hammered by challenges. But those challenges made us rethink.

Some re-evaluated operating models that had been painfully inefficient for what seemed like eons. Others explored how to do more with less. 

But the silver lining that’ll long be etched in the CRE industry’s history books is how operators worked smarter to pivot traditional strategies

They worked smart, and they collaborated. At an unprecedented scale, the entire community came together to share how they were adapting to the new conditions, whether dealing with a laundry list of restrictions, tracking indoor air quality, or remotely monitoring critical assets.

It was almost as if the pandemic gave decision-makers a soft push in the right direction towards greater agility and operational efficiency.

The industry rose to the challenge as one, helping each other learn, grow, and kickstart reimagined property operations. 

Now, in the spirit of the holiday season, we have two gifts for you:

  1. The top trends we saw emerge in 2020, trends that will support your 2021 initiatives
  2. The top expert-approved strategies for rethinking operations and thriving in 2021

1. Remote monitoring: True visibility into operations helped owners and operators answer hard questions and make fast, confident decisions—crucial during turbulent times.

2. Enhanced sanitization: Almost in the blink of an eye, property owners revisited cleaning strategies and prioritized preventative measures for enhanced hygiene and safe premises.

3. Improved IAQ: To woo back a remote workforce, owners put protocol compliance and maintaining indoor air quality (IAQ) at the top of their checklists.

4. Reimagined offices: Under pressure to quickly set up an operating infrastructure to allow thousands of employees to work from home, many organizations gave up traditional processes and bureaucracy and instead solved for faster outcomes.

5. Workflow automation: Automation that ties operations insights back to human actions and metrics, such as revenue enhancement and productivity, helped properties with workforce optimization, remote asset management, and efficient energy usage. In fact, workflow automation alone unlocked significant OpEx savings.

6. Better tenant communication: By opening multiple communication channels in a building, operators demonstrated how their properties are mitigating risk. Transparency became key for all stakeholders. 

The Top Expert-Approved Strategies for Rethinking Operations in 2021

Now that the new reality is here, and 2021 is almost here, how are you preparing for the change in property operations? To thrive in 2021, we recommend you embrace these proven, expert-vetted strategies.  

1. For Building Automation Providers: To maximize building performance, your best bet is an advanced FDD solution that goes beyond HVAC energy management and integrates with building operations and control systems. This way, the scope of efficiency expands from energy to unified portfolio-wide control.

“FDD platforms need to automate tedious operational processes and keep providing value year after year,” says Smart Building expert James Dice.

“And to do that,” he says, “they need to affect all facets of operations and pull in more than just HVAC.”

2. For FM service providers: In a recent podcast, Abdulla Al-Wahedi, CEO of Khidmah, pointed to technology as the best path to success.

“Predictive maintenance in operations with AI and IoT is quickly becoming the new standard,” he says. “Real estate operations companies will chase both cost cuts and quality of service—and that will require investment in technology.”

Because they had the right technology in place, COVID-19 did not impact Khidmah’s operations projects—a great testament to Al-Wahedi’s foresight and vision.

3. For sustainability leaders: Embrace solutions that open up and foster communication between facility managers, property managers, occupants, and maintenance staff.

“The energy efficiency aspect is going to be the biggest tie back to carbon reduction, and clients want to interact with facility teams more to ensure the safety of their spaces,” says Conor Merrigan, Program Manager, Sustainability, at Spirit Environmental.

“Whether it’s about control to increase energy efficiency or decrease ventilation, hassle-free communication between building stakeholders can positively impact sustainability.”

4. For property operations service providers: The key to client-centricity is delivering services digitally, a practice that calls for seamlessly integrated technologies. Emma Hendry, the former CEO of Hendry Group, Australia, supports this notion and stresses that “strengthening tenant communication on top of a unified platform will be important  to maintain and operate premises and sustain business operations.”

5. For owners/operators considering greater technology adoption: Technology makes it possible for commercial real estate businesses to rely on data from a centralized platform to gain a unified view of operations, get the data they need to make informed decisions, streamline maintenance, improve sustainability, and optimize experiences—all at the same time.

“The commercial real estate industry is faced with having to adapt to more specific and demanding regulations,” says Haithem Ibraheem, Property Operations Manager, ICD Brookfield Place.

“By leveraging the power of modern technology elements – such as IoT, AI, and cloud technology – real estate portfolio owners and operators can access operational intelligence to optimize asset performance in real-time.”

The spotlight is clearly shining on the agility possible with a strong digital foundation—one that provides operational resilience while simultaneously delivering seamless customer experiences. 

We’re grateful for the lessons learned in 2020. And we’re looking forward to putting those lessons to good use in 2021.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!