Reimagining the office and work life after COVID-19

By Brodie Boland, Aaron De Smet, Rob Palter, and Aditya Sanghvi
View the original article here

The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. Organizations must reimagine their work and the role of offices in creating safe, productive, and enjoyable jobs and lives for employees.

COVID-19 has brought unprecedented human and humanitarian challenges. Many companies around the world have risen to the occasion, acting swiftly to safeguard employees and migrate to a new way of working that even the most extreme business-continuity plans hadn’t envisioned. Across industries, leaders will use the lessons from this large-scale work-from-home experiment to reimagine how work is done—and what role offices should play—in creative and bold ways.

Changing attitudes on the role of the office

Before the pandemic, the conventional wisdom had been that offices were critical to productivity, culture, and winning the war for talent. Companies competed intensely for prime office space in major urban centers around the world, and many focused on solutions that were seen to promote collaboration. Densification, open-office designs, hoteling, and co-working were the battle cries.

But estimates suggest that early this April, 62 percent of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis,1 compared with about 25 percent a couple of years ago. During the pandemic, many people have been surprised by how quickly and effectively technologies for videoconferencing and other forms of digital collaboration were adopted. For many, the results have been better than imagined.

According to McKinsey research, 80 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home. Forty-one percent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 percent that they are as productive. Many employees liberated from long commutes and travel have found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoyed greater flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives, and decided that they prefer to work from home rather than the office. Many organizations think they can access new pools of talent with fewer locational constraints, adopt innovative processes to boost productivity, create an even stronger culture, and significantly reduce real-estate costs.

Before the pandemic, the conventional wisdom had been that offices were critical to productivity, culture, and winning the war for talent. Companies competed intensely for prime office space in major urban centers around the world, and many focused on solutions that were seen to promote collaboration. Densification, open-office designs, hoteling, and co-working were the battle cries.

But estimates suggest that early this April, 62 percent of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis,1 compared with about 25 percent a couple of years ago. During the pandemic, many people have been surprised by how quickly and effectively technologies for videoconferencing and other forms of digital collaboration were adopted. For many, the results have been better than imagined.

According to McKinsey research, 80 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home. Forty-one percent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 percent that they are as productive. Many employees liberated from long commutes and travel have found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoyed greater flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives, and decided that they prefer to work from home rather than the office. Many organizations think they can access new pools of talent with fewer locational constraints, adopt innovative processes to boost productivity, create an even stronger culture, and significantly reduce real-estate costs.

The reality is that both sides of the argument are probably right. Every organization and culture is different, and so are the circumstances of every individual employee. Many have enjoyed this new experience; others are fatigued by it. Sometimes, the same people have experienced different emotions and levels of happiness or unhappiness at different times. The productivity of the employees who do many kinds of jobs has increased; for others it has declined. Many forms of virtual collaboration are working well; others are not. Some people are getting mentorship and participating in casual, unplanned, and important conversations with colleagues; others are missing out.

Four steps to reimagine work and workplaces

Leading organizations will boldly question long-held assumptions about how work should be done and the role of the office. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The answer, different for every organization, will be based on what talent is needed, which roles are most important, how much collaboration is necessary for excellence, and where offices are located today, among other factors. Even within an organization, the answer could look different across geographies, businesses, and functions, so the exercise of determining what will be needed in the future must be a team sport across real estate, human resources, technology, and the business. Tough choices will come up and a leader must be empowered to drive the effort across individual functions and businesses. Permanent change will also require exceptional change-management skills and constant pivots based on how well the effort is working over time.

We recommend that organizations take the following steps to reimagine how work is done and what the future role of the office will be.

1. Reconstruct how work is done

During the lockdowns, organizations have necessarily adapted to go on collaborating and to ensure that the most important processes could be carried on remotely. Most have simply transplanted existing processes to remote work contexts, imitating what had been done before the pandemic. This has worked well for some organizations and processes, but not for others.

Organizations should identify the most important processes for each major business, geography, and function, and reenvision them completely, often with involvement by employees. This effort should examine their professional-development journeys (for instance, being physically present in the office at the start and working remotely later) and the different stages of projects (such as being physically co-located for initial planning and working remotely for execution).

Previously, for example, organizations may have generated ideas by convening a meeting, brainstorming on a physical or digital whiteboard, and assigning someone to refine the resulting ideas. A new process may include a period of asynchronous brainstorming on a digital channel and incorporating ideas from across the organization, followed by a multihour period of debate and refinement on an open videoconference.

Organizations should also reflect on their values and culture and on the interactions, practices, and rituals that promote that culture. A company that focuses on developing talent, for example, should ask whether the small moments of mentorship that happen in an office can continue spontaneously in a digital world. Other practices could be reconstructed and strengthened so that the organization creates and sustains the community and culture it seeks.

For both processes and cultural practices, it is all too tempting to revert to what was in place before the pandemic. To resist this temptation, organizations could start by assuming that processes will be reconstructed digitally and put the burden of proof on those who argue for a return to purely physical pre–COVID-19 legacy processes. Reimagining and reconstructing processes and practices will serve as a foundation of an improved operating model that leverages the best of both in-person and remote work.

2. Decide ‘people to work’ or ‘work to people’

In the past couple of years, the competition for talent has been fiercer than ever. At the same time, some groups of talent are less willing to relocate to their employers’ locations than they had been in the past. As organizations reconstruct how they work and identify what can be done remotely, they can make decisions about which roles must be carried out in person, and to what degree. Roles can be reclassified into employee segments by considering the value that remote working could deliver:

  • fully remote (net positive value-creating outcome)
  • hybrid remote (net neutral outcome)
  • hybrid remote by exception (net negative outcome but can be done remotely if needed)
  • on site (not eligible for remote work)

For the roles in the first two categories, upskilling is critical but talent sourcing may become easier, since the pool of available talent could have fewer geographical constraints. In fact, talented people could live in the cities of their choice, which may have a lower cost of living and proximity to people and places they love, while they still work for leading organizations. A monthly trip to headquarters or a meeting with colleagues at a shared destination may suffice. This approach could be a winning proposition for both employers and employees, with profound effects on the quality of talent an organization can access and the cost of that talent.

3. Redesign the workplace to support organizational priorities

We all have ideas about what a typical office looks and feels like: a mixture of private offices and cubicles, with meeting rooms, pantries, and shared amenities. Few offices have been intentionally designed to support specific organizational priorities. Although offices have changed in some ways during the past decade, they may need to be entirely rethought and transformed for a post–COVID-19 world.

Organizations could create workspaces specifically designed to support the kinds of interactions that cannot happen remotely. If the primary purpose of an organization’s space is to accommodate specific moments of collaboration rather than individual work, for example, should 80 percent of the office be devoted to collaboration rooms? Should organizations ask all employees who work in cubicles, and rarely have to attend group meetings, to work from homes? If office space is needed only for those who cannot do so, are working spaces close to where employees live a better solution?

In the office of the future, technology will play a central role in enabling employees to return to office buildings and to work safely before a vaccine becomes widely available. Organizations will need to manage which employees can come to the office, when they can enter and take their places, how often the office is cleaned, whether the airflow is sufficient, and if they are remaining sufficiently far apart as they move through the space.

To maintain productivity, collaboration, and learning and to preserve the corporate culture, the boundaries between being physically in the office and out of the office must collapse. In-office videoconferencing can no longer involve a group of people staring at one another around a table while others watch from a screen on the side, without being able to participate effectively. Always-on videoconferencing, seamless in-person and remote collaboration spaces (such as virtual whiteboards), and asynchronous collaboration and working models will quickly shift from futuristic ideas to standard practice.

4. Resize the footprint creatively

A transformational approach to reinventing offices will be necessary. Instead of adjusting the existing footprint incrementally, companies should take a fresh look at how much and where space is required and how it fosters desired outcomes for collaboration, productivity, culture, and the work experience. That kind of approach will also involve questioning where offices should be located. Some companies will continue to have them in big cities, which many regard as essential to attract young talent and create a sense of connection and energy. Others may abandon big-city headquarters for suburban campuses.

In any case, the coming transformation will use a portfolio of space solutions: owned space, standard leases, flexible leases, flex space, co-working space, and remote work. Before the crisis, flexible space solutions held about 3 percent of the US office market. Their share had been growing at 25 percent annually for the past five years, so flexibility was already in the works. McKinsey research indicates that office-space decision makers expect the percentage of time worked in main and satellite offices to decline by 12 and 9 percent, respectively, while flex office space will hold approximately constant and work from home will increase to 27 percent of work time, from 20 percent.2

These changes may not only improve how work is done but also lead to savings. Rent, capital costs, facilities operations, maintenance, and management make real estate the largest cost category outside of compensation for many organizations. In our experience, it often amounts to 10 to 20 percent of total personnel-driven expenditures. While some organizations have reduced these costs by thinking through footprints—taking advantage of alternative workplace strategies and reviewing approaches to managing space—many corporate leaders have treated them largely as a given. In a post–COVID-19 world, the potential to reduce real-estate costs could be significant. Simply getting market-comparable lease rates and negotiating competitive facilities-management contracts will not be enough. Real-estate groups should collaborate with the business and HR to redo the footprint entirely and develop fit-for-purpose space designs quickly—in some cases, by creating win–win approaches with landlords.

The value at stake is significant. Over time, some organizations could reduce their real-estate costs by 30 percent. Those that shift to a fully virtual model could almost eliminate them. Both could also increase their organizational resilience and reduce their level of risk by having employees work in many different locations.

Now is the time

As employers around the world experiment with bringing their employees back to offices, the leadership must act now to ensure that when they return, workplaces are both productive and safe.

Organizations must also use this moment to break from the inertia of the past by dispensing with suboptimal old habits and systems. A well-planned return to offices can use this moment to reinvent their role and create a better experience for talent, improve collaboration and productivity, and reduce costs. That kind of change will require transformational thinking grounded in facts. Ultimately, the aim of this reinvention will be what good companies have always wanted: a safe environment where people can enjoy their work, collaborate with their colleagues, and achieve the objectives of their organizations.

How Will Covid-19 Change Demand For Office Space?

Organizations have had to do without the office during lockdown. Will they ever go back?
View the original article here

COVID-19 has focused minds on exactly what the office is for and how central a role it should play in corporate strategies and budgets, as well as making the strengths and limitations of home set-ups all too apparent.

Over the last few weeks, WSP has been considering what the future holds for the buildings where so many of us used to spend so much of our waking hours. From a human point of view, we’ve already explored how we’ll feel about going back to the office and how we might behave differently when we get there. From an engineering point of view, we’ve looked at whether we can virus-proof the office and improve resilience in this and future pandemics. Both of these have implications for how much space organizations might need or want in future, how much that space costs to fit out and operate, and ultimately how much occupiers can, or choose to, afford.

This article is about those decisions: how is demand for office space likely to change as a result of COVID-19?

Why do we need offices? Hasn’t lockdown proved that we can work just as well remotely?

To the surprise of many, COVID-19 has indeed demonstrated that a considerable amount of the work that usually takes place in offices can carry on when they are closed. Some have discovered that they can be more productive at home, and enjoy the freedom of a more relaxed schedule. Few openly mourn their morning commute.

But if COVID-19 has accelerated the trend for home working, it has also revealed its limitations – in a knowledge economy, an organization’s success will still depend on face-to-face interaction, collaboration and serendipity. With universal flexible working, the office could become a vital anchor. “When you’re trying to attract, retain and nurture top talent, the workplace plays a really significant part in how people perceive a business,” says Michael Holloway, general manager of property investment at Kiwi Property, one of New Zealand’s largest real estate firms. “Rather than doing a job interview on a videoconference, you want to go into their space and see how they value other members of staff.”

The office has an arguably even more important role in providing learning opportunities for younger employees, says Jim Coleman, head of economics at WSP in London. “A lot of developing people is not formal training, it’s all the other interactions. There’s still a lot to be gained from being together as a team.” This will apply differently across demographics – with a tension between younger employees’ need for training and senior employees’ greater motivation to work from home. “For people at the start of their careers, there’s probably more desire to be with other people because you’re still learning and you want the experience and the social life that goes with it. Whereas as you get older and you may have settled down and have children, it’s much easier to work from home.”

A greater amount of home working will persist: for the sake of resilience as much as anything else. “The next time a coronavirus comes along, we know we need to move quickly to this model, which means that it has to be in play – at least in part – most of the time,” says Coleman. “I don’t think any business will want to go back to the way things were done, so that has an immediate implication for space.”

 “I don’t think any business will want to go back to the way things were done, so that has an immediate implication for space”. Jim Coleman Head of Economics, WSP UK

How much office space will companies want?

Changing working practices are not the only determining factor. The International Monetary Fund has described the “Great Lockdown” as the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and foresees a recession at least as bad or worse than the 2007-08 global financial crisis.

Inevitably there will be a reduction in occupier demand, though it will vary from sector to sector. The worst-affected tourism and leisure industries will need less corporate space, while some professional services firms may be able to continue as normal with altered working practices. Booming sectors like technology and e-commerce are already more likely to embrace virtual working – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has said that employees can work from home permanently if they want to. “Companies could see this as an opportunity to downsize, to reduce operating costs and invest more in technology,” says Paul Stapley, vice president in the project management team at WSP in Canada. “Occupiers have already been moving to shorter lease terms. If they’ve only got, say, six months left, they may decide to walk away.”

Organizations had already started to shrink footprints so that they had less than one desk per person, and the recession is likely to accelerate that trend. “In a crisis, there is always a focus on trying to reduce fixed costs like offices,” says Magnus Meyer, Managing Director WSP Nordics & Continental Europe. “The typical tenant will start thinking that maybe they don’t need space for 100% of their employees, maybe only 75% or 60%. Or they might not expand because of the crisis, but just work with the space they have.”

What makes COVID-19 such a strange phenomenon is that its immediate impact will be to push organizations in the opposite direction – they will need more space per employee. Companies have been squeezing more and more people onto floorplates for a long time, with just 8m2 per employee becoming a typical density. For offices to reopen safely and maintain physical distancing, ratios will have to shoot up again, with shifts, staggered start times and continued remote working essential.

It’s too early to say whether we will ever again feel comfortable occupying space in such close proximity to others, which makes the longer-term impact on office requirements very hard to gauge. Perhaps the better question is whether organizations will want the same kind of space that they’ve occupied in the past.

 “Companies could see this as an opportunity to downsize, to reduce operating costs and invest more in technology” 

Paul Stapley Vice president in the project management team , WSP Canada

What kind of office space will organizations want?

Companies will now be well aware that they could make do with less office space. But they may also have realized that they also need better, more resilient office space. “This crisis is probably going to accelerate the need for modern, flexible office space with lots of services,” says Meyer. “The buildings that suffer will be the older ones that tenants just don’t want any more. They’re just the wrong product.” 

Landlords will have to differentiate themselves with added services: “You might call it ‘high-end’, not from a luxury perspective but from a content perspective – you won’t just lease a ‘stupid’ space, you need to fill it with services to help the tenant be more productive, whether that is sustainability or wellness solutions or digital technology.” 

To justify its existence, the office will have to become a destination with a purpose, says David Gooderham, global account director with WSP in London. “If people continue to be the driver for change, as the most important component of an organization’s profitability, businesses will have to provide safe working environments that increase the feelgood factor and ultimately raise productivity and creativity. There’s much that we can learn from this lockdown period to make the workplace better and our interactions with it more effective.”

Holloway thinks the “hotelization” of office space will continue, with workplaces importing some of the home comforts that we’ve become used to. This might mean more relaxed dress codes, but also real planting and soft furnishings, to make spaces more cosy while helping to subtly create distance between people. “We need to think about furniture and other design solutions to create separation without losing the benefits of collaboration. If offices have a future, people need to feel safe in them.” 

Coworking spaces have been leaders in the field of hotelization, and are perhaps the ultimate destination offices. But COVID-19 has left tumbleweed blowing through these buzzy, high-density communities. We’ve considered whether this will be the death of the coworking space in a separate article.

“To justify its existence, the office will have to become a destination with a purpose” 

David Gooderham Global account director, WSP UK

This is another area where the short-term impact of COVID-19 may look very different to how things will eventually pan out. As workplaces start to reopen with physical distancing measures in place, offices in the centre of major cities are the most problematic, often necessitating commutes on crowded public transit. Suburban or out-of-town locations where workers typically drive will be able to resume something approaching normal operations much more quickly.

But if offices become destinations to meet coworkers, get inspiration and exchange ideas, rather than just to sit at a desk, those in buzzy locations make more sense. If organizations don’t need as much space because people work remotely more often, they may choose not to cut their rent bill but to spend the same amount on a smaller, more characterful building in an amenity-rich central location – a much more attractive destination for employees than a featureless office park.

A shift to working fewer days in the office will benefit expensive central locations most, believes Tommy Craig, senior managing director at Hines in New York. “New York is a very challenging place to achieve good work-life balance because it’s extraordinarily expensive to live and raise a family. If you alter that paradigm and allow employees to work from home one or two days a week, the whole work-life balance shifts in the direction of something much more favourable. Commuting 40% less is a big deal, given how large New York is and the length of our commutes.”

Economic activity has strongly clustered in the US’ larger cities over the last 50 years, as employment has shifted from manufacturing to services. Professor Bill Kerr at Harvard Business School has studied the progress of its world-beating talent clusters such as Silicon Valley, which exert a powerful, self-perpetuating global pull for skills and capital. Will they continue to thrive in the post-pandemic world? “What made talent clusters so powerful is that ideas can jump from person to person – of course if germs and viruses are also jumping from person to person, that’s going to make them a lot less attractive,” he says. “This has always been a big challenge for places that were built around interaction and being in close proximity.” If we can get back to work within the next few months, he thinks talent clusters will be secure for some time to come. “But if the pandemic continues for several years, these cities are going to struggle and we may see a more systematic pullback from the clusters. It’s a question of how it plays out over the next year.”

Another impact of COVID-19 could be that companies split operations between several locations, potentially benefiting smaller centres. “A lot ofcompanies are going to be thinking about how they could make their workforce if not pandemic-proof, at least pandemic-resistant,” says Kerr. “Opening a second office might not have made sense historically, but may be something that younger companies should do at an earlier stage. We have celebrated density and packing people together, but that’s putting a lot of eggs in one basket.”

” A lot companies are going to be thinking about how they could make their workforce if not pandemic-proof, at least pandemic-resistant”

 Bill Kerr Professor, Harvard Business School

What about new office developments? Do we really need to build extra space?

This will be down to the dynamics of supply and demand in local markets. In some places, there was already a structural undersupply of modern, high-quality office space, and COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate this, even if the overall demand remains the same. Changes may also take a while to feed through. As CBRE Canada has pointed out, commercial real estate is a lagging industry – two years elapsed before office vacancy rates peaked following the global financial crisis.

The other side of the equation is the supply of capital for office projects. WSP director Gary McCarthy advises financial institutions, and he thinks real estate will still be attractive. “There is a deep pool of capital available for the right assets and real estate will continue to offer long-term investment managers a defensive strategy for their portfolio, and return yields sufficiently above government bonds. There will be specific challenges – regional offices will struggle more than prime city centre offices – but I don’t see there being a drop in capital commitment.”

The big question for investors in the commercial sector, McCarthy adds, will be how to differentiate your asset from the rest. How can you make sure that your office is the one that tenants and their employees want to go to. What will make an office into a compelling destination in a post-COVID world? That’s a question we’ll consider in the next article in the series. Subscribe to receive the latest updates

A Renewed Focus on Energy Efficiency – Energy Audits

By: Julie Lundin, LEED AP ID+C, WELL AP

2020 is in our rearview mirror.  The pandemic will end, most likely sometime in late 2021.  Businesses are beginning to restart and plan.  However, much has changed since the pandemic took hold of our lives and economy.  Initially the commercial building industry’s focus has been on the health issues of building occupants by addressing IAQ, employee density, social distancing, occupancy patterns and work schedules. But an important aspect not to be overlooked is to refocus on proactive strategies that manage operating expenses. With increased vacancy in commercial properties, decreased economic and business activity, now is the time to institute energy conservation and cost-saving measures to help contain building operating costs. A commercial energy audit will help building owners become more profitable by reducing wasted energy use whether operating under normal business conditions or COVID-19.

Commercial Energy Audits

What comes to mind when the term “audit” is used?  I usually think of a financial audit which requires a close examination of documents and perhaps a negative outcome.  The term “energy audit” might initially invoke the same response from building owners and managers. The idea of closely examining a buildings energy needs and operating efficiency might appear to be looking for unwanted change especially if the building seemingly operates fine daily. A commercial energy audit should be viewed as an energy opportunity assessment to reduce energy expenses and increase profit. Compared to a financial audit when the best that could happen is nothing, an energy audit has positive outcomes.

What motivates an energy audit?

With the inherent push back on change what motivates building owners or CFO’s to conduct an energy audit? It is usually financial driven, sustainability driven or a combination of both.  An energy audit is often the first step in making a commercial building more efficient.  The goal of an energy audit is of course to identify energy-saving opportunities but can also increase asset values, lower ownership costs, and promote environmental stewardship, human comfort, health, and safety.

What is involved in an energy audit?

Buildings, whether long-standing or recently constructed, have potential for energy improvements.  Typically, an energy audit is a loose term and follows a general framework of identifying energy usage throughout the building, assessing building systems, and conducting on- site inspections. A final report is produced outlining energy conservation and system improvement measures.

However, an energy audit is a specific term defined by ASHRAE, a global organization focused on advancing technology to improve sustainability. ASHRAE specifies three types of energy audits:

  • Level 1: A basic, high-level walkthrough. It requires data collection regarding the operation of building systems and a review of facility utility bills with the purpose of identifying major problem areas.
  • Level 2: Includes a Level 1 audit and additional complex, detailed calculations in connection with proposed energy efficiency measures.  Note: The literature suggests an entire workbook of calculations for each identified project, which means people tend not to identify small projects because the write-up is the same. As a result, a Level 2 may less useful because organizations do not consider ways to address the “low-hanging fruit” (such as LED lighting, for example) which tend to have low-cost and high return—avenues for energy efficiency that are certainly worthy of consideration.
  • Level 3: Sometimes called a “comprehensive audit,” this level includes more detailed data analysis related to the projects identified during the Level 2 audit, as well as extensive cost and savings calculations.

The result of any commercial building energy audit is to analyze and understand a facility’s energy usage. Then to design appropriate strategies for making improvements that will reduce energy input and ultimately save money.

The Energy Audit Process

Emerald Skyline’s team is trained to assist property owners and facility managers understand their buildings and discover the greatest opportunities for energy savings.  We specialize in energy management solutions and discover the greatest opportunities for energy savings. The energy audit process allows us to determine what systems are causing you the most money on your utility bills.

Review Historic Utility Bills

To begin our process, we collect facility’s historic utility bills to determine the facility’s annual energy consumption.

Examine Existing Assets

Next, our team collects on-site data by performing the energy audit. During this time, we are determining potential solutions that maximize savings.

Present Economic Solutions

After we complete the audit and compare the utility bills, our team works together to design comprehensive systems custom tailored to each individual facility that maximizes energy savings.

 Mechanical Systems

HVAC units, boilers, hot water heaters, chillers, and more to determine current state of equipment, age, life expectancy, and performance.

Interior and Exterior Lighting

Lighting technology has increased significantly over the years. With LEDs not only do you improve lighting quality, but significantly reduce electric usage

Thermal Boundaries

The building envelope (windows, insulation, roofs, etc.) seal is essential to keep your conditioned spaces from leaking air. Ensuring proper insulation throughout the facility is key to minimizing heating and cooling costs.

Destratification Fans

In facilities with tall ceilings, maintaining consistent airflow helps maintain comfort in the facility.

Every facility is custom and operates differently. Our team has audited facilities across many industries from retail, hotels, offices, multi-family, and more. We have an expanded knowledge on systems and are flexible to tackle any project. In this time of uncertainty, it is important to keep operating expenses to a minimum. Unnecessary costs include costs for energy that you do not need to use. An energy audit will help determine the best energy conservation measures for your building.

Energy Awareness Brings Savings During COVID-19

As commercial real estate owners face budget constraints, rediscovering efficient energy infrastructure paints a silver lining.

By: Diana Mosher
View the original article here .

As we settle into fall, some U.S. employees are being summoned back to the office. Physical occupancy in office properties was at 25 percent as of Sept. 9, according to data collected by Kastle Systems in 10 large U.S. cities. Most people are continuing to work from home, however, many with no return date in mind. In fact, when a viable COVID-19 vaccine is finally rolled out, some might discover they have no office to return to, with companies rethinking whether they need a physical base at all. Facing this turn of events, property owners and managers are prioritizing energy efficiency as they grapple with fluctuating consumption levels.

“Managing occupied, partially occupied and unoccupied spaces with cooling, heating and lighting is essential,” said Barry Wood, LEED accredited professional & director of retail operations at JLL. “Many tenants will not fully reoccupy, and owners and managers must be able to adjust and adapt their energy usages to the needs of the building and tenant.”

Built in 2008, 22 West Washington is one of Chicago’s trophy assets. The 17-story, 439,434-sq.ft. commercial property was designed by architecture firm Perkins + Will with high speed (minimal wait time) elevators; 14-inch raised floors for power, data and tenant-designed HVAC; digitally controlled, high capacity HVAC; and open floor plans that can be modified to meet social distancing protocols. 

According to Wood, improving energy efficiency is a differentiator in most buildings because utilities typically rank in the top five for expenses. “Also, because of COVID-19, many buildings are seeing that rental income and expense recoveries are down, and owners and managers must be creative in managing the balance of the property needs. Maintaining conveniences to the tenants and guests coming to the property is essential to ensure they are comfortable being there.”

Best practices depend on the facility, but Wood said they will certainly include varying the set points on chillers and rooftop equipment; ensuring the operation of chillers, cooling towers, air handlers and roof op equipment is within the highest efficiency zone; and working with tenants to cluster workers—within CDC suggested guidelines—for lighting and cooling efficiencies.

Additionally, properties should stagger schedules to take advantage of natural daylighting. Another item on the list is the revision of settings on occupancy sensors for lighting and cooling in walk-through traffic areas as well as individual offices that may have shorter stay times.

It will be a challenge to obtain the same capital improvement dollars as before. Wood said, “To be approved for this type of project at properties, many owners will focus this capital money on ‘must do’ or ‘re-tenanting’ projects rather than operating efficiencies, therefore the building operations and engineering team will be essential in finding savings through operating efficiencies.”

MONITORING ENERGY USAGE

Technology is bringing big advances in monitoring energy usage, but adoption has been sluggish. However, since COVID-19 has pushed up operating costs, having an efficient building has become sexy in the minds of owners. Energy consultants offering audits, such as Bright Power, have the receipts to prove that energy monitoring does save money and can reduce carbon emissions.

“When stay-at-home orders began, we saw our office and higher education clients’ building staff adjust equipment schedules to reflect the new reduced occupancy schedules,” said Samantha Pearce, director of energy management services at Bright Power. Clients that had action plans—or were able to easily prepare plans based on what equipment was essential for limited occupancy—are saving more.

According to Pearce, the best tip to offer is finding out how your equipment is operating, and how to adjust settings quickly and efficiently. “Remote monitoring and energy management services are an impactful way to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on maintenance and operations plans.”

We had a client who needed to switch from heating to cooling at their building. We were able to walk them through the switch remotely since we had installed a remote monitoring system before the stay-at-home order. And, we were able to verify that the switch happened correctly, rather than have the property staff wait for resident complaints or before receiving increased utility bills,” she said.

Since the pandemic began, virologists have been preaching for bringing in as much outside air as possible. Doing this during mild weather can actually improve efficiency; for example, by utilizing the spring outdoor air to lower the temperature in a crowded auditorium instead of using a cooling tower. However, during extreme weather, increasing outdoor air can bring a drop in efficiency. In both cases, the outcomes depend greatly on the site’s mechanical equipment.

“It becomes extremely important to know how to capture those savings (during mild weather) in order to possibly counter the potential increased costs of increasing outdoor air supply during the extreme weather seasons,” Pearce said.

NEW OPERATIONAL GUIDANCE

Commercial buildings sitting vacant since March are significantly less energy efficient and more expensive to operate. According to Jeff Gerwig, LEED green associate & national engineering manager for Colliers International U.S., the reason is new operational guidance from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) during the pandemic. ASHRAE’s new standards help create healthier indoor environments. However, energy efficiency measures implemented for years are now being reversed to achieve the recommendations.

“The primary impacts on energy efficiency and operating costs have been centered around three items,” explained Gerwig. “First, the increase of HVAC operating hours—ASHRAE recommends increasing building operating hours, if possible, up to 24/7. Also, outdoor air dampers are being opened to maximum percentages allowable to bring more outdoor air inside the property and create higher demand for HVAC operations.”

ASHRAE also recommends that dampers be opened up to 100 percent if possible, and Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) be disabled. “This technology worked in conjunction with outdoor air dampers. It measured indoor pollutant concentrations and used precise amounts of outdoor air to maintain spaces.” Gerwig added, “Given that ASHRAE recommends outdoor air percentages be increased to highest levels possible, these devices are being disabled.”

CREATING SAFE, HEALTHY ENVIRONMENTS

Employees are bound to continue reoccupying buildings in coming months, providing an excellent opportunity to consider both air quality and whether buildings are on track with long-term sustainability or efficiency goals.

“The types of air quality requirements we’re seeing put in place are very dependent on both the region/state and the type of building and can have a variety of implications on energy efficiency,” said Lou Maltezos, executive vice president of Ameresco, a company that specializes in renewable energy and energy efficiency consulting.

“As building owners have considered and experienced what ‘back to work’ looks like in communities around the world, we’re seeing a number of customers consider items such as touchless controls, updated HVAC systems and automated entry/exit systems to address both the efficiency needs of the building and the health and safety of the occupants,” Maltezos added.

For example, with the correct process and tenant instruction in place, owners can implement technologies such as ionization to their outside air units in return ducts that may reduce the amount of air needed to condition a space. Maltezos added that efficiency relies on utilizing data not only from the space, but the air handlers and controls system as well, for providing the correct amount of outside air.

RETHINKING PRIORITIES

In the current climate, it is essential to stay in touch with thought leadership on all matters related to energy. “Unfortunately, in most cases the energy savings reported (since COVID-19) for most buildings are not as significant as expected and not in line with occupancy reductions,” weighed in Thomas Vazakas, Cushman & Wakefield associate director of energy, infrastructure and sustainability for the EMEA region. “This is due to the inability in most buildings to have effective controls and zoning.”

For example, heating and cooling is provided to all open plan areas, whether occupied or not. Similarly, in many cases there are no occupancy sensors for lighting, therefore most, if not all, the lights will be on even though only a small area of the office needs it.

“As a result, we see most buildings using very similar energy to heating, cooling or lighting even though their occupancy is 50-90 percent less than it used to be,” explained Vazakas. “This is a great opportunity to install adequate controls in our buildings to ensure no energy is wasted.”

As the effects of the health crisis unfold, owners and managers continue testing in resilience. “Surely the loss of human lives is devastating, but at the same time COVID-19 presents an opportunity to rethink our priorities and change the way we live—and how we use our buildings. Many property owners are already looking into this and trying to use this crisis to help them develop and implement their sustainability goals and especially their corporate plans to meet Net Zero Carbon,” Vazakas concluded.

When this agenda also results in operational savings, it’s icing on the cake.

How to build the foundation for a hydrogen economy in the US

By: Alan Mammoser
View the original article here

New hydrogen-based energy projects are cropping up across the world.

Announcements of plans and projects for hydrogen-based energy are appearing with scale and ambition in Europe and Asia. The United States, in contrast, is not seeing the same sort of headline-grabbing initiatives. But the United States is making quiet progress and laying the basis for what soon could emerge as a national strategy for hydrogen energy.

The European Union’s new “Hydrogen Strategy,” closely linked to its “Energy System Integration Strategy,” wants to create a large regional hydrogen market encompassing Eastern Europe and North Africa. Northeast Asia is on par with Europe regarding plans for hydrogen adoption. Japan’s far-reaching planning includes the import of “blue hydrogen” (produced with carbon capture) from major oil and gas exporting countries of the Middle East.

While the U.S. has not announced a major effort of this scale, significant progress is being made in envisioning and initiating a future “hydrogen economy.” The U.S. government is funding a dedicated initiative that focuses on emergent technologies and market development.

Meanwhile, a major industry group has published a realistic “roadmap” that sets out a 10-year timeline for new technology deployment and the opening of markets. 

DOE does hydrogen

The US Department of Energy’s H2@Scale program, described as a “multi-year initiative to fully realize hydrogen’s benefits across the economy,” is a 4-year old initiative that is beginning to show results. It sees hydrogen as an integration technology that enhances the performance of diverse energy sources and plays a key role in facilitating a low carbon energy system.

During the past year, DOE channeled more than $100 million in grants to some 50 projects to further the H2@Scale initiative. They are funded through DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office (EERE), through its Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO) in cooperation with other EERE offices. Just last month, EERE announced about $64 million for 18 projects in fiscal year 2020.

The selected projects show great breadth and focus where technological development is required to broadly advance the deployment of hydrogen throughout the U.S. energy system. Taken together, they show the key role hydrogen is expected to play in de-carbonizing transport, heavy industry, energy storage and other energy-intensive sectors.

“6 projects are devoted to research and development on fuel cell technology and manufacturing of heavy-duty fuel cell trucks.”

Six projects are devoted to research and development on fuel cell technology and manufacturing of heavy-duty fuel cell trucks. There is support for private sector R&D on electrolyzer manufacturing, and for corporate and academic research on hydrogen storage, specifically high-strength carbon fiber for hydrogen storage tanks. There are two projects to spur demonstrations of large-scale hydrogen use at ports and data centers, and academic research on application of hydrogen for the production of “green steel.” One project is devoted to a training program for a future hydrogen and fuel cell workforce. 

“H2@Scale is identifying new and emerging markets, where the integration of hydrogen technologies can add value,” says Sunita Satyapal, EERE HFTO director. “Some examples of these markets are data centers, ports, steel manufacturing, and medium and heavy-duty trucks.”

Satyapal says that projects are designed to bridge gaps in technology innovation, with demonstrations of how to turn hydrogen opportunities into real solutions. All research, development and demonstration under the purview of HFTO is guided by technical, performance and cost targets. The targets have been developed with industry input to ensure that new technologies will be competitive with incumbent technologies.

“Projects will emphasize strengthening the hydrogen supply chain through innovative manufacturing approaches and techniques,” she says.

“Projects will emphasize strengthening the hydrogen supply chain through innovative manufacturing approaches and techniques.”

In addition to the competitively selected and funded projects, over 25 H2@Scale projects are under lab cooperative agreements. The Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) enable national laboratories to work with industry on key technical areas to advance H2@scale. A new call for CRADA projects recently was made with up to $24 million available for collaborative projects at national laboratories in two priority areas: hydrogen fueling technologies for medium- and heavy-duty FCEVs; and hydrogen blending in natural gas pipelines.

Industry input

“The U.S. Department of Energy’s H2@Scale program is crucial to enabling broader commercialization of transformational hydrogen and fuel cell technologies,” says Morry Markowitz, president of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA). “Many of these projects are advancing hydrogen applications in traditionally hard-to-decarbonize markets such as heavy-duty transportation, shipping propulsion and steel production.”

FCHEA, a Washington, D.C.-based industry association that seeks to promote commercialization and markets for fuel cells and hydrogen energy, has produced a comprehensive vision for a “Hydrogen Economy.” Its “Road Map to a U.S. Hydrogen Economy” looks at the full spectrum of potential applications: as a low-carbon (potentially zero-carbon) fuel for residential and commercial buildings; as an important fuel in the transportation sector; as a fuel and feedstock for industry and long-distance transport; as an important player in the power sector for power generation and grid balancing.

“An early opportunity is seen in states that have renewable energy standards, where the appropriate regulatory framework can allow hydrogen to begin to have a role in electric grid stability and storage.”

FCHEA’s road map may well prefigure an official strategy for hydrogen, should the U.S. government get serious about comprehensive planning and goal-setting for a low carbon energy future. It has four phases: 2020-22 (immediate steps); 2023-25 (early scale-up); 2026-30 (diversification); and beyond 2030 when the group would expect a “broad rollout” of hydrogen applications.

The immediate steps start with setting goals at state and national levels. They also focus on the best opportunities to scale mature applications, seeking cost reductions that will open new opportunities. An early opportunity is seen in states that have renewable energy standards, where the appropriate regulatory framework can allow hydrogen to begin to have a role in electric grid stability and storage.

In early scale-up, large-scale hydrogen production and demand starts to bring costs down. The road map sets specific goals for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), both light and heavy-duty, and calls for scaling up the fueling station network. Retrofitting of power generation will allow enhanced grid balancing while blending with natural gas for buildings also begins.

Diversification begins at mid-decade with some 17 million metric tons of low-carbon hydrogen fuel consumed annually and 1.2 million FCEVs sold. By the end of the decade the critical infrastructure is in place with the hard-to-decarbonize sectors of heavy industry and aviation being affected. An economy-wide carbon price will facilitate this expansion. 

“This lofty vision for hydrogen will rely on strong government leadership and close cooperation with industry.”

Beyond 2030, the backbone infrastructure of hydrogen begins to appear at large-scale, with low-carbon hydrogen production, a hydrogen distribution pipeline network, and a large fueling station network across the U.S. By 2050, the adoption of hydrogen fuel cells for distributed power is standard, while on-site electrolyzers support local grids, energy storage and load balancing while providing hydrogen for fueling stations. In industry, low-carbon hydrogen is a widely used feedstock, produced either with carbon capture and storage or with dedicated renewables and on-site water electrolysis.

This lofty vision for hydrogen will rely on strong government leadership and close cooperation with industry. The FCHEA’s road map notes that European and Asian countries are investing in the groundwork for a future hydrogen economy. The group calls on the U.S. to not fall behind.

Can the US Catch Up in the Green Hydrogen Economy?

A new report highlights the massive potential to decarbonize transport, industry and power grids — and the massive investments needed to get there.

By: JEFF ST. JOHN
View the original article here

Green hydrogen industry heavyweights line up behind boosting U.S. investment.

The U.S. needs a massive green hydrogen industry to decarbonize its electricity, transportation and industrial sectors, and major investments and policy changes today to enable it to grow to its full potential in the decades to come. 

So says a new report sponsored by major oil companies, automakers, hydrogen producers and fuel cell manufacturers pushing U.S. policymakers to follow the lead of the European Union in making a major commitment to building the infrastructure to grow its green hydrogen capacity. 

The Roadmap to a U.S. Hydrogen Economy report forecasts that hydrogen from low-carbon sources could supply roughly 14 percent of the country’s energy needs by 2050, including hard-to-electrify sectors now dependent on natural gas such as high-heat industrial processes and manufacturing fertilizer.

Hydrogen to power fuel cells will also augment battery-powered vehicles in decarbonizing the transportation sector, particularly for vehicles requiring long ranges and fast refueling times such as long-haul trucks, said Jack Brouwer, a professor at the University of California at Irvine and associate director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center, in a Monday webinar introducing the report.

Meanwhile, wind, solar and nuclear power that might otherwise be forced to curtail generation when the power grid doesn’t need it could be used to electrolyze water to generate hydrogen that can be stored to power natural-gas-fired turbines needed for grid reliability or on-site fuel cells to maintain continuous power at data centers, hospitals and other critical sites, he said. 

The report, prepared by consultancy firm McKinsey, is “agnostic” as to how this future hydrogen supply is generated, “as long as it’s low-carbon,” Brouwer said. Beyond electrolysis via zero-carbon electricity, that could include steam reforming of natural gas — the way most of today’s hydrogen supply is made — using carbon capture and storage to reduce its greenhouse gas impact, or employing less fully developed methods such as waste gasification, he said. 

The U.S. already generates about 11.4 million metric tons of hydrogen per year, with an estimated value of about $17.6 billion. But reaching the report’s targets could drive about $140 billion per year in revenue and support 700,000 jobs by 2030, and about $750 billion per year in revenue and a cumulative 3.4 million jobs by 2050, it states. 

The U.S. lags behind China, Japan and the European Union in infrastructure and research investments to reach this potential. Government and industry investment in hydrogen as an energy carrier adds up to $2 billion per year in Asia and the European Union, the report finds, while U.S. Department of Energy funding for hydrogen and fuel cells has ranged from approximately $100 million to $280 million per year over the last decade. 

A roadmap for green hydrogen expansion 

The report doesn’t set specific dollar targets for U.S. investment. But it highlights the need for capital to build the hydrogen production and transport infrastructure to carry it to end users, incentives to stimulate private-sector investment, codes and standards to regulate a growing supply chain, and research into still-nascent technologies. 

It also lays out a phased approach for building on existing hydrogen use cases to expand to new ones. Experience with the roughly 25,000 fuel cell-powered forklifts in use in the U.S. will enable expansion to larger classes of vehicles, for example, and fuel cells being used for on-site power at data centers can serve as models for integrating hydrogen into large-scale generation. 

Major challenges lie ahead of this growth, Brouwer said. To reach the report’s goals, the number of fuel cell vehicles will have to grow from today’s roughly 2,500 to nearly 1.2 million by 2030, and the number of fueling stations will have to expand from about 100 today to more than 4,300. And advances are needed to blend existing pipelines will be needed to expand its use. 

But utilities across the country are relying on these kinds of advances to allow them to meet goals of zero carbon by 2050. One example is Gulf Coast utility Entergy’s work with Mitsubishi Power to blend hydrogen into its gas mix at its power plants and plans to convert an underground gas storage facility to hold hydrogen as part of its long-term decarbonization goals. 

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said at Wood Mackenzie’s Power & Renewables conference last week that “federal and state incentives to build a few major regional hubs for hydrogen” will be a critical early step for proving the fuel’s cost-effectiveness as a decarbonization strategy. “We think we should not be sitting here thinking of hydrogen as something for the 2030s and 2040s — it is, but let’s also make it something for the 2020s,” Moniz said. 

U.S. green hydrogen activity in the works

Andy Marsh, CEO of report sponsor Plug Power, noted Monday that the company’s hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts and distribution center vehicles used by customers like Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s are using about 27 million tons of hydrogen per day, supplied by its more than 100 fueling stations across the country. It’s expanding into heavy-duty vehicles to serve ports in the U.S. and Europe, and into producing stationary fuel cells for data centers and distribution hubs. 

Last week Plug Power signed a deal with Brookfield Renewable Partners to supply 100 percent renewable power for what Marsh described as a “gigafactory” it plans to build in an as-yet-undisclosed location. The factory will be capable of producing up to 60,000 fuel cells and about 500 megawatts of green hydrogen electrolyzers per year, he said. 

Toyota, one of the first major automakers to commit to fuel cell vehicles with its Mirai sedan, is also planning to expand production of hydrogen-powered semitrucks now being tested at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Senior Engineer Jackie Birdsall said. Toyota sees the growth of light-duty fuel cell vehicle markets driving cost reductions through economies of scale, along with heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles increasing demand for hydrogen fuel production and distribution. 

Dutch oil giant Shell, which is planning a gigawatt-scale, wind-power-driven hydrogen cluster in the Netherlands, is also building hydrogen fueling stations in Los Angeles to serve these ports’ fuel cell vehicle’s needs, said Wayne Leighty, the company’s hydrogen fuel business development manager. Shell is also investing heavily in EV charging businesses centered on battery-powered vehicles, but “hydrogen fuel cells and electric vehicles are quite complementary” for meeting different needs, rather than being mutually exclusive options for zero-carbon transportation, he said. 

French industrial gas manufacturing giant Air Liquide is investing $150 million into a renewable liquid hydrogen generation plant in Nevada set to generate 30 tons per day, or enough to supply 40,000 fuel cell vehicles, when it opens in 2022, said Karine Boissy-Rousseau, president of the company’s North American hydrogen energy and mobility business. It’s also investing about $40 million to renovate a hydrogen facility in Quebec, Canada to double its capacity to convert renewable hydropower and wind power to green hydrogen to 20 megawatts by year’s end, she added. 

BACK TO THE FUTURE

IS IT 1919 OR 2020?

By: Ted Konigsberg, President
Infinity Commercial Real Estate

AS YOU CAN SEE IN THESE OLD PHOTOS, WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE.

  • WHAT CHANGES TO OUR BUILDINGS AND CITIES RESULTED?
  • WHAT CHANGES CAN WE EXPECT TODAY?

After months of conference calls, Zoom videos and webinars, only now is our industry’s vision of the new physical world beginning to emerge.

If the past is prologue, we can predict the future through research of the structural changes that occurred after the Cholera Epidemics of the 1800’s the Typhoid Epidemics of the 1800’s & 1906-1907), and the Spanish Flu of 1918 -1919.

Six cholera pandemics in the 19th century cost hundreds of thousands of lives. The renovation of Paris’ and London’s infrastructures followed, as did the construction of New York’s Central Park in 1857.

Upgraded sanitation, broadened streets and open public areas. The Spanish Flu took over 50 million lives around the world. Robert Koch’s discovery of the tuberculosis bacillus in 1882, transmitted by droplets (sound familiar?) gave rise to sanitoriums, buildings designed to house, treat, and isolate patients, emphasizing strict hygiene and ample exposure to sunlight and air.

The beginning of the 20th Century gave birth to Minimalism and Modernism. Victorian décor (soft fabrics, velvet drapes and wall coverings, small rooms, carpets and rugs) where dust and germs could linger and become vectors of disease, was replaced by modern stark designs, with minimalist furniture and cleanable surfaces like tile, glass and steel. Buildings were designed to bring light and fresh air to the occupants. The visionary Swiss architect Le Corbusier designed structures that included sinks at the entrances: Today, this survives as the guest or half bath. Open terraces, roof gardens, skylights and cross ventilation became prevalent. Rooms were large, open, airy. These photos are of buildings and interiors 85 -100 years old!

Dust lodged in decorative features was the enemy of hygiene. Designers used lightweight, washable materials. Michael Thonet used bentwood and cane, Aalto used bent plywood, and Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe used tubular steel. Furniture was light and easily moved for cleaning, to deprive dust, germs and insects of hiding places in the dark.

By the 1920’s air conditioning was viable and in use in buildings of public accommodation. Yet, the Empire State Building has multiple open-air decks, and single hung, OPENING windows, as do vertical buildings of the time. Light, fresh air, social distancing…

Restaurants changed too. Below is a photo of the original Lawry’s The Prime Rib, built in Los Angeles in the 1920’s. Note the banquette seating for isolation and the materials used for surfaces throughout the room, all easily cleanable.

The events of the early 1900’s impacted our collective psychology, and the effects long outlived the events themselves.

The changes in our constructed environment became the norm, but the difficult lessons were forgotten as the generations that lived through these pandemics passed. We are now compelled to relearn them.

OK, SO YOU’VE LOOKED AT SOME COOL OLD PHOTOS AND ARE TOTALLY BORED BY MY MUSINGS… WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

  • CIVIL ENGINEERING, PLANNING: Cities will expand open areas, such as parks and streets. No car zones, which London and Paris have had for many years, will become common in shopping and entertainment districts, to allow for distancing and outdoor tables and exhibits. Expect significant upgrades to water and sanitation systems. Working from home has created huge demand for high speed internet access: Fiber optic installations, new towers for 5g. The death of the automobile has been vastly over-hyped. When will you feel safe traveling by train, bus, or subway? When will you feel safe ridesharing? So, upgrades to parking and roads, less construction of new public transportation. A return to the suburbs. Rezoning and reconfiguration of many high-density buildings, such as failed hotels and offices.
  • EXISTING VERTICAL BUILDINGS: Major upgrades to HVAC systems, such as UV lights in air handlers, HEPA filters, coil disinfectant systems. Wall sconces in hallways replaced by UV light air purifiers. Larger washrooms with hot water sinks and touchless faucets. Tile instead of carpeting. Reconfigured common areas for distancing. Rooftop gardens. Cleanable wall coverings and furniture. Touchless door systems. Voice-activated elevators.
  • NEW VERTICAL BUILDINGS: In addition to the above, opening windows, Balconies, open-air decks, and rooftop amenities, like running tracks and gardens. Wider and windowed stairwells and hallways, larger and more elevators. Perhaps a return of the atrium concept with skylights. Much larger common areas.
  • RESIDENTIAL: Do you feel safe walking through a crowded lobby, pushing buttons on an elevator with multiple people in it, passing your neighbors in the hallway? Not having access to the building gym, restaurant, or pool if there’s another outbreak in the future? Vertical condos and apartment buildings will suffer. On the lower-end, garden style apartments with their stairwells and patio or balconies will become desirable again. For larger residences, townhouses and single-family homes (sale and rent) will benefit. A fenced yard will matter. High speed internet will matter, as you will spend more time working from your “cave”. A half bath at or near the entrance will matter. A spare room separate from the main living areas with a dedicated washroom for use as your office, grown kids room, or parent’s room (will you send mom to an assisted living facility unless you have to?) will be a very desired feature, as will an entry “parlor” separated from the living areas.
  • OFFICE: A protracted decline. Companies realize their employees can effectively work from home, while reducing risk of infection and corporate liability. In high-tech industries, international employees will not have to be relocated to work in the US; software engineers can stay in Bangalore and be just as productive via VPN, WebEx and Zoom. Why apply for a Visa? An offset will be a greater amount of footage required per occupant to effect social distancing, but that won’t be enough to fully compensate the increased vacancy. The “We-Work” co-working and hoteling concept will face demise, but operators such as Regis will thrive. Rents will fall, CAP rates will rise. A shift to single story walk-in, non-CBD (suburban) property locations, much of which will be repurposed retail space and industrial/office flex buildings.
  • INLINE RETAIL: Will suffer in the short term but rebound strongly. Local services still matter. Convenience stores, liquor stores, dry cleaners, hair salons, drug and grocery stores are necessary. Expect countless neighborhood restaurant closings, but also expect “virtual” restaurants (kitchens) to emerge, as online ordering will continue. Outdoor seating will help make up for lost table density. Expect alternate types of uses, like office, medical and dental.
  • BIG BOX RETAIL: Power centers give their tenants something malls can’t: Control of their sites. Curbside pickup will continue. Further, many of these are in “last mile” locations. Think of Best Buy, which is thriving. They use their stores as distribution centers: When you order from them, chances are the item comes right from store inventory, which how they compete with Amazon on delivery. Expect to see more of this model. Amazon’s share of the total US retail market is only 3%. Walmart does 3 times the volume of Amazon, and their operations are extremely efficient and improving. Those retailers with a brand that matters to consumers, an efficient and friendly online experience and a store centric logistics model will capture market share. As to broad-line big boxes like JC Penney, Sears, Neiman-Marcus… They will continue to suffer, and possibly not survive.
  • MALLS: Only the best operators will endure. Those that do will be greatly changed. Most failed anchor stores will require complete repurposing and reconstruction. Both large and small tenants will want outward facing ingress and egress, so malls will have to face outwards, not inwards. With their large land areas, the best locations will make those changes, and attract outparcel operators. Those that survive will embrace mixed use: Residential, office, and even “last mile” logistics facilities will replace many existing tenants. Rents will fall. The short-term pain will be immense, and failed malls may be a great investment opportunity for developers.
  • HOSPITALITY: Central Business District facilities will be badly impacted. We may see numerous properties repurposed. To survive, touchless check-in and doors, expanded common areas. No significant new construction of CBD and airport properties, pure survival mode for years to come. As folks drive more and fly less, roadside motels and extended stay properties, with outdoor room entrances and kitchenettes, will thrive again. Soon, companies like Airbnb will have a resurgence, continuing to capture market share, as they offer travelers privacy and control.
  • INDUSTRIAL: The lack of supply chain reliability has become painfully evident, and as time to delivery becomes increasingly important, manufacturing will return to our shores. Even Grandma orders online now and expects everything to be delivered immediately. Manufacturers will gladly pay a little bit more to source components from a reliable US based supplier, instead of waiting a month (at best) for a “slow-boat from China”. Further, automated manufacturing depends much less on the cost of labor than the cost of electricity and real estate: Both are cheaper here than in Asia.

As retail become more reliant on fast delivery, expect “last mile” locations to excel, along with dedicated cold chain distribution facilities. Many local and regional tenants will ditch their dedicated office locations and seek out industrial flex with 20% to 40% office components, so they can reduce overall rents, control access and exposure, and feel safe. Rear loaded multi-tenant properties with curb appeal and high parking ratios are gold!

MANUFACTURING, INDUSTRIAL FLEX AND LOGISTICS WILL THRIVE.

Adaptive Reuse Project Auto Body Shop Transformed into Live-Work Gem in Sunny Boca Raton

By: Julie Lundin, LEED AP ID+C, IIDA

So, what does adaptive reuse mean in real life?

Adaptive reuse is when you go to an art gallery… in a former church, when you attend a community event… in an old barn, when you book a Costa Rican vacation and your hotel is made out of shipping containers!  With the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of repurposing the built environment has become even more important. Vacant office space becomes a healthcare facility.  Hotels turn into healthcare worker housing. A shopping mall is suddenly a medical center.

As an interior designer, I have always been intrigued by adaptive reuse projects.  Projects where a design team has expertly executed a vision for a forgotten run-down building or interior space and brought it back to life. They hold a special place in my heart. When the opportunity arose to purchase, design, and renovate an abandoned auto garage in Boca Raton to use as a live/work space, it was a dream come true.  As an adaptive reuse project, the most important initial points of consideration begin with safety, accessibility, and compatibility. These basic points are relevant no matter what is being considered, from energy to building materials to assessing current building code requirements.

Keeping the form or structure of a building intact while changing its function is challenging. However, it can provide significant environmental and economic benefits. Adaptive reuse projects have utilized sustainable design concepts long before LEED and green building became popular.  Adaptive reuse is one of the most maximized uses of recycling.  The value of reuse, recycle and repurpose is intrinsic to these projects. 

Benefits of Adaptive Reuse

  • Adaptive reuse is sustainable
    • Greenest building is one that already exists
    • Reduction in building materials needed to transform a space
  • Environmental Stability
    • Reduces energy consumption associated with demolishing a structure
    • And building a new one to replace it
  • Economic Stability
    • Potential cost benefits associated with greenfield development
      • Legal issues
      • Zoning problems
      • Finance
      • Design and Construction Costs
      • Environmental Impacts
  • Spaces may be useful for fledgling businesses
    • 16% less costly than other forms of construction
    • Results in lower leasing rate
  • Faster than new construction
    • Renovated existing building ready for occupancy sooner
  • Preservation of local identity
    • Older buildings add and establish the character of local built environments
    • Preserves a local sense of place and authentic experience
  • Utilization of a previously developed site
    • Avoids development of greenfields
    • Utilizes existing utility infrastructure
    • Minimizes impact on watersheds and stormwater systems
  • Reusing existing building elements
    • Cost savings
    • Embodied energy savings
    • Construction waste savings
    • Time savings
  • Utilize the character of existing spaces and materials

Below is my adaptive reuse project story.  I hope you enjoy it!

Auto Body Shop Transformed into Live-Work Gem in Sunny Boca Raton

AFTER (Continue reading for Before…)

Boca Raton, Florida is well known for its affluent gated golf communities, manicured landscapes, and pristine beaches. Unlike cities such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati where industrial is synonymous with the name, Boca’s industrial area is inconspicuous.  That is why the unexpected location of this industrial section is the perfect setting for a hidden gem, a distinctive live-work studio. What was once a run-down auto body shop with ground contamination was transformed into an office, studio, and residence. With a commitment and passion for design, the built environment, and sustainability, this industrial property has been repurposed into a warm, inviting, and environmentally friendly enclave.

Auto garage office BEFORE

The base footprint of the building is 1,950 square feet. The front of the building houses the residential space which includes a kitchen, bathroom, open living space and a cozy loft which provides an additional 240 square feet. This portion of the building was designed to be self-contained with a separate entrance and electric meter should future usage needs change. A peek inside the space shows a metal spiral staircase leading to the loft. The spiral stairs were kept intact from the original body shop but painted a soft metallic gold as a nod to the design firm’s name Golden Spiral Design.

AFTER

The small footprint of 1,950 square feet required creative design solutions to maximize the multi –

functionality of the space. The live work concept had to become truly integrated based on the building size.  The residential component made sense to be in the front portion of the building which allows a separate entrance.  The main auto garage became the office/studio but is designed as a flex space to accommodate large meetings or entertaining on the weekends. To delineate areas of the open space, furniture placement, lighting and plants were utilized.

Auto garage BEFORE

The back portion of the building was originally an auto painting stall and allows for privacy once the large, colorful barn door is closed.  High gloss cabinetry was added for much needed storage and includes a murphy bed. This space also contains an added ADA bathroom, free standing glass shower, and washer and dryer.

 The walls are painted a crisp white which showcase the concrete block walls, their inherent imperfection, and years of use.  A modified exposed interior was created with galvanized metal soffits that hide electrical and air conditioning components.  The three original overhead garage doors are still intact and used as metal shades for privacy and sun control.  The garage concrete floors were polished and sealed still showing the shapes, imperfections, and natural patina of the building. Old Chicago brick was added to both the interior and exterior walls to emulate the character of old industrial buildings. 

AFTER

The grounds were designed to visually create an inviting enclave.  Sustainable fencing was installed which offers privacy and security. The front apex, once an eyesore, is a green oasis with bronze trellises, jasmine vines, orchids, and a custom mosaic.  Sustainable, resilient and energy efficient principles were applied throughout the design and specifications of this building.

Building BEFORE

Below are key sustainable concepts that were utilized for this project.

  • Site Remediation
  • Construction Waste Recycling
  • Adaptive Reuse of Undesirable Property
  • Highly Reflective Roof and added Insulation
  • No additional Building Footprint added
  • Solar Panels and Battery Storage
  • Energy Efficient HVAC
  • Energy Efficient Windows
  • Energy Efficient LED Lighting
  • Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures
  • Energy Efficient Appliances
  • Recycling and Composting
  • Low VOC Paint and Finishes
  • Daylighting
  • Interior Plantscapes
  • Exterior Drip Irrigation System

Converting this building to a multi-use habitable space was both challenging and rewarding.  It was important to design the space using the existing building footprint (bigger is not better), to remediate the undesirable brownfield, to take advantage of the industrial character, and to promote sustainability throughout the entire design process. 

With the arrival of the COVID pandemic it has never been more important to have a healthy and safe place to work.  For questions about the adaptive reuse of this building – or the potential of a building you own – please contact me, Julie Lundin, at (561) 866-4741 or jlundin@emeraldskyline.com.

Renovation, Restoration, and Adaptive Reuse: The Understated Value of Existing Buildings

It’s not enough to design super-efficient new buildings. To reach zero-net carbon, architects have to improve performance in existing buildings, and make the most of the embodied carbon we’ve already spent on them.

By KATIE GERFEN
View the original article here

Given that we’re on target to double the current square footage of building stock globally by 2060, it would be criminal to ignore existing building inventory as an opportunity for reuse. Quinn Evans principal emeritus and 2018 AIA president Carl Elefante, FAIA, and senior associate Richard JP Renaud, AIA, explain why renovation and adaptive reuse—staples for their firm—are critical to achieving the necessary carbon benchmarks.

You have said that “the greenest building is the one that is already built.” Why are the renovation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings so important to achieving zero net?
Carl Elefante, FAIA: We have a carbon burden that already exists in the built environment. As designers, we’re thinking about the future, we’re thinking about new buildings. The challenge is to not increase the current carbon burden, which means new buildings have to be much, much more energy-efficient, contributing much less carbon, ultimately contributing zero. But that does nothing to reduce the existing carbon burden. We’re not going to get to zero without drawing down from where we are today. To do that, we have to address the performance of existing buildings.

How should architects and developers approach the existing building stock that they should be considering for renovation?
Elefante: “The mountains and the carpet” is Ed Mazria’s description—the “mountain” of modern, tall, dense buildings surrounded by a “carpet” of midcentury and earlier low-density buildings—and it describes an important duality that exists when you start to look at the carbon needs. The types of policies and programs needed to address getting to zero carbon with the large downtown buildings is very different from the challenge of the dispersed buildings in the carpet.

What are some of the challenges?
Elefante: The concentration of dense, large buildings downtown has a relative handful of owners. To get at their carbon footprint, you’re dealing with a few stakeholders. The projects are large enough to potentially fund all of the analytical work of energy modeling and life cycle assessment that needs to be done to reach performance goals. In the carpet, you have many thousands more owners, down to the ones with a single property. The scale is so small that it’s very hard to say to an individual homeowner, “Spend money doing modeling, life cycle assessments, and optimizing alternative design scenarios.” It tends to require a more prescriptive approach: “Here are things that you can do to adapt your residence or small-scale commercial building: Insulate your roof and walls, upgrade your mechanical systems to all electric, etc.”

In large-scale renovation or reuse projects, where are the opportunities with embodied carbon?
Richard Renaud, AIA: With the mountain buildings, the envelope is a good target. Many of the curtain walls in early modern buildings had very little concern for thermal performance—keeping the view and light was their primary objective. Operationally, how can we improve the curtain wall? And when is it too far gone to be able to be improved? This all comes back to improving performance and minimizing the future use of carbon. The curtain wall was made out of aluminum and glass, two materials that use a lot of carbon to make them. What can we do to save that carbon? Not replacing it becomes very important. The Professional Plaza Building [shown above, in Detroit, which Quinn Evans renovated] was a nice midcentury building that actually had a thermally insulated curtain wall. The owner came to us and said: “From a monetary basis, I want to retain this curtain wall. What can we do to improve its performance?” In his eyes, it’s money; in our eyes, it’s carbon. The owner wanted to save money, he wanted to make the building more efficient. He wanted to reuse as many materials as possible in its redevelopment, which inherently is what we intend to do, too.

Are there ways for architects to get owners thinking more about carbon?
Renaud: The mountain is actually a lot easier, because the owners are going to come to architects. The problem, as Carl said, is with the “carpet.” You have thousands of owners, and most are not going to hire an architect.

Do we write off the carpet too quickly as not worth saving?
Renaud: Yes. If you come in [to a carpet building] and you have four walls and a roof, even in poor condition, if you can save anything, it’s a plus. We’ve got to stop looking at it only as saving money, and start saying: “How much carbon do we have here, and how is reuse going to save it?”

Elefante: We can’t do this without systemic change. I constantly find myself reminded of the founding of AIA 160 years ago. What was happening then was the adoption of what we now call Building and Life Safety Codes. What we’re faced with today is really similar. Back then, the systemic change was recognizing that it was more important to have all buildings fireproof so that we didn’t have a disaster every time somebody dropped a candle. We need systemic change here as well, and the basis for the change is there. City after city is beginning to develop plans for carbon reduction. There is no way to get to the reductions that are needed without addressing carbon in the building stock—both operational and embodied carbon. Even if you find no value in an existing building other than to keep its basic structure, that saves so much embodied carbon. How do we really start to think about our buildings as carbon sinks, as ways to sequester carbon?

Is sequestering the carbon that is already in the built environment critical to achieving zero?
Elefante: Yes. We just can’t throw these buildings out. We’ve got to work with the buildings that we have and continue to make them valuable. If we’re looking for quick reductions in carbon, the place that we have to look first is embodied carbon. If you start with scenarios like renovating existing buildings, then you are instantly saving carbon. This market change is happening very quickly. From my own perspective of being an official old guy and having been around for the rise of sustainability and green building, there’s an awful lot of people around that say, “Architects really missed the boat on the green building switch, so others took it on.” This is going to happen even more quickly, and it’s imperative that architects wake up and make this transition from being carbon polluters to being carbon sequester-ers. It will be either the saving or the demise of our profession.

Why COVID-19 Raises the Stakes for Healthy Buildings

by Kristen Senz
View the original article here

Like it or not, humans have become an indoor species, so buildings have a major impact on our health. That’s why the Healthy Building Movement is gaining momentum, say John Macomber and Joseph Allen.

Will you ever again step onto a crowded elevator without hesitation? Reach for a doorknob without concern (or gloves)?

Easing social distancing restrictions might reopen businesses, but as long as memories of COVID-19 lockdowns are still fresh in people’s minds, the experience of being inside an office building most likely will not return to “normal.”

Even before the pandemic struck, there were plenty of reasons to be concerned about air quality and ventilation in the buildings where we live and work. After all, healthier indoor environments don’t just keep us from getting sick—they also enhance cognitive performance.

“OFFICES WITH THE PREMIER HEALTH STORY WILL GET THE PREMIUM RENT AND GET THE TENANTS, AND THE OFFICES WITH A LAGGING HEALTH STORY WILL LAG.”

To convey to managers the benefits of the healthy building movement, John D. Macomber, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, recently wrote a book about it: Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, to be published April 21.

Although facilities managers might think they’re saving a few dollars on electricity and air filters, “There’s just no reason anymore to economize on airflow and filtration,” Macomber says. “That just doesn’t make any sense. It’s a cheap way to help people be healthier.”

Together with co-author Joseph G. Allen, a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Macomber explores “nine foundations for a healthy building” and studies how simple tweaks to increase air flow and quality can have dramatic effects on workers.

But the economic benefits don’t stop there. Macomber expects that a growing public focus on health measures will drive major changes across a variety of industries, but especially in travel and hospitality. Increasingly, Macomber postulates, savvy business leaders and landlords will begin to leverage healthier indoor spaces as recruitment tools and sources of competitive advantage. Anxieties over COVID-19 are likely to accelerate these trends, he says.

“I think awareness is heightened, and in this economy there’ll be a drop in demand for space, both for apartments and offices,” he says. “With those two things together, I think that the offices with the premier health story will get the premium rent and get the tenants, and the offices with a lagging health story will lag.”

Many elite companies already use their building’s efficiency or grandeur to send a signal to customers and workforce talent. As a result of the global pandemic, Macomber expects an emphasis on indoor air quality and other healthy building measures will diffuse through the rest of the economy.

As the country begins to return to work, concerns about the spread of infectious disease will “make it easier than ever to invest in the basics of a healthy building, notably around ventilation, air quality, water, moisture, and security,” says Macomber. “Those aren’t expensive to begin with. So, I think those will propagate through pretty quickly, and they’ll be must-haves, because the cost is not relatively very high, and the benefit is extremely high.”

As anyone who has ever felt sleepy on a stuffy airplane can attest, poor ventilation impedes cognition. “Casinos figured this out a long time ago, pumping in extra air and keeping the temperature cool to keep you awake at the gaming tables and slot machines longer,” Allen and Macomber write.

But through scientific, double-blind studies of workers in offices with various levels of air quality and flow, in which the workers were compared with themselves to gauge differences in personal performance, the authors of Healthy Buildings can quantify these effects.

Across all nine dimensions of cognitive function, which include things like “strategy,” “focused activity level,” and “crisis response,” performance was dramatically improved when study subjects worked in the optimal conditions (with high rates of ventilation and low concentrations of carbon dioxide and other harsh compounds).

“Think about that for one second—simply increasing the amount of air brought into an office, something nearly every office can easily do, had a quantifiable benefit to higher-order cognitive function in knowledge workers,” Macomber and Allen write.

Macomber is careful, though, not to make the leap from enhanced performance to increased productivity, because productivity involves so many different factors.

Among the nine foundations for a healthy building (see graphic) is “security,” a term the authors expect will take on a broader meaning in a post-pandemic world. Building security will involve monitoring not just who enters and what they are physically carrying, but also what they might be carrying internally. In addition to metal detectors, infrared scanners at building entrances will take visitors’ temperatures, to help prevent the spread of viruses and other pathogens, similar to technology already in place at some airports.

As people begin to internalize the collective nature of public health, sharing of personal health and air quality metrics—using wearables and smartphones—could lead to new applications that provide real-time information about the conditions inside buildings. Imagine an app that does for public health what WAZE has done for traffic congestion, Macomber says.

“There is going to be substantially more awareness and interest on the part of the public, in terms of the quality of the spaces that they’re occupying, and they’ll be selective about their airplanes and about their cruise ships,” he predicts. “And pretty quickly they’ll be selective about their apartments and their offices as well, and they’ll share that information with other people.”