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City of London

IoD City Property Webinar: Innovation for the New Normal

28 Aug 2020

By Richard Nelson, Chair Designate, IoD City of London Property Special Interest Group
28 August 2020

Demonstrating the high calibre of our expert panel and the reach of IoD, over 210 people attended our webinar ‘Property: Innovation for the New Normal’ on 4 August.

These are impressive numbers, particularly during summer school holidays and following months of ‘webinar overload’ for people.

We had attendees from across the UK, as well as far flung locations such as Frankfurt, Philadelphia, New York, Oslo, Bermuda and Nairobi.

A cross-section of the entire property and construction industry was represented, with 54% of the audience working directly within the sector, about 10-12% each either buying from or selling into the sector, and just over 25% who were just interested in the topic.

Attendees were from such varied professions as property investment, development, corporate real estate, M&A advisory, architecture, town planning, PropTech, banking, leadership coaching and even an ex-Disney Imagineer.

Our top-flight panel included:

  • Neil Pennell(moderator), Head of Design Innovation and Property Solutions at Landsec, the UK’s largest listed real estate developer, and also chair of the British Council for Offices Technical Committee
  • Vanessa Hale, Head of Insights and Residential Research at BNP Paribas Real Estate, also Chair of Urban Land Institute UK
  • Paul Whiston, Founder and Managing Director of Whiston Solutions, a leading engineering and technology consultant for the corporate real estate industry, and at the forefront of emerging technology
  • Darren Comber, CEO of UK top 10 and global top 100 architectural practice, Scott Brownrigg

Following introductions from the Chair of IoD London Region, David Stringer-Lamarre, and the incoming Chair of the IoD City of London Property Special Interest Group, Richard Nelson, the panel kicked off with brief presentations to share their views on how the property sector is responding rapidly with innovations and practical solutions to address Covid-19.

Much of the discussion centred around building peoples’ confidence in going back to workplaces, as well as using public transport to get to/from work and using local shops and restaurants near their workplaces.

A quick poll at the start revealed that 57% of the audience was very confident about returning to their workplaces, but only about one third were confident using public transport. A majority were confident using shops and F&B near their workplaces, so it appeared that the weak link was transport.

Some of the highlights from the panel discussion included:

  • In addition to allowing for social distancing and sanitisation, building owners need to pay attention to the design of both the working areas and amenity spaces—such as outdoor balconies or terraces, lounge areas and streetscapes.
  • We need to learn from history, as buildings and real estate have been the first line of defence against diseases in the past. We’ve forgotten that as we’ve become reliant on antibiotics, so we need to remember the lessons.
  • There is an opportunity for the digital industry to play a role in the recovery, by showing building owners and occupants how to use data to inform us where the risks are and how to manage them to help us be more secure.
  • There are significant benefits that the workplace offers us—creativity, productivity, interactivity, teamworking and progression, interfacing with peers to learn and mentor, absorbing the company ethos and behaviours, etc.—that are difficult to replicate in virtually.
  • Logistics has been the darling sector during the pandemic—in the 1H20, the UK clocked up its highest ever amount of transactions on record in the sector at 28.5 million square feet.
  • Amazon has said it will be increasing its global footprint by 50% in the near term.
  • Google location data shows that retail and grocery shops across EU have maintained foot traffic at near pre-covid normal levels, while parks have had astronomical increases in activity. Workplaces and transit were 40% below the averages for pre-Covid times.
  • GDP may not bounce back to pre-C19 until the end of 2021, at the earliest.
  • Pre-pandemic we were 95% in the office; in lockdown we were 95% working from home. Five years ago, internet networks could not have handled this switch, but investment in technology has allowed it to work.
  • The issue with Covid is that it is airborne and can travel up to 50 metres.
  • One potential solution is to install UVGI (ultra violet germicidal irradiation) on building ventilation systems, which is 99.9999% effective against the Covid-19 virus.
  • CV will have as big an impact on building design as climate change has had to date.
  • We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the response we have seen to immediate threat is nothing compared to the climate change threat, but we’ve shown inability to address climate change in a meaningful way.
  • Building designs in response to climate issues will be key to unlocking solutions to other issues like contagion control.
  • There has been a lot of focus on people’s physical health, but what about mental health?

Numerous other interesting comments and insightful observations came through in what was a very successful webinar. About one quarter of the attendees stayed around for virtual networking afterward, extending the discussion.

View webinar recording

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