As technology continues to grow at an exponential rate, the world seems to be changing faster than we can keep up with it. That’s why the concept of future-proofing is becoming the focus for designers, builders, and managers. Some buildings need to be retrofitted for purposes the original developer may not have expected, while others may be designed to accommodate new management systems that may not be ready for years to come.
Commercial Property Executive reports that flexibility is a common denominator among all future-proofing missions. In order to keep a property relevant, it needs to have the ability to adapt. “We’re now getting away from the idea of mixed-use, in the sense that you have these boxed-in uses for each type of building, and are instead turning to multi-use,” said Jamie Butler, managing director at Walker & Dunlop.
The article points out the three greatest challenges facing developers looking to future-proof: Technology, versatility, & the ability to be green-ready.
“It’s important to spend more time talking to people within the technology industry, so we can learn about the newest software and platforms that will help make your buildings run better,” said Christian Dalzell, managing partner at Dalzell Capital Partners.
When it comes to future-proofing staying up to date on technology trends, regardless of its application, will ensure you have the necessary tools to keep your property relevant. Providing a robust communications infrastructure and making it easy to attract service providers are two fundamental strategies to be ready for future digital demands. Even now, properties are outfitting themselves with fiber technology to prepare for the demand of even faster internet speeds.
Another key strategy is to monitor IT. Practice what Tom Jackson, senior manager of Global OT/iOT Cyber Security at Ernst & Young, calls “basic cyber hygiene.” This means you should avoid shared use of a single password by multiple maintenance shifts & outside vendors, learn which technology is used in the portfolio, and be aware of how your systems are being used.
In every property sector developers are finding it challenging to keep properties flexible. Workplace strategies and shopping habits are changing at an unusually rapid rate, and many offices and retail companies are requiring more highly specific infrastructures that make it difficult to future-proof. Still, “most offices can reposition if the basic functions are thoughtfully designed,” said Daniel Gehman, studio director at Humphreys & Partners Architects.
With drastic changes in driving habits & a focus on lowering their carbon footprint, the future of parking structures remains in question. “Offices with adjacent, standalone parking structures may be able to adapt unneeded parking to residential uses with enough forward planning,” noted Gehman. “In a mall or pad retail situation, additional uses can just be built on top of parking fields.”
Incredibly, an above-grade parking structure could be converted into office space if designed with high ceilings, HVAC systems, and lighting. For below-grade parking levels, Gehman noted storage is usually the only option.
At a time when formal certification is standard practice, a crucial decision for developers and operators is whether their future-proofing strategy should include investing in techniques on the cutting edge of sustainability.
“There is a clear direction going toward having a zero-carbon footprint,” said Walter Hughes, vice president of design at Humphreys & Partners. “Having net-zero energy in buildings is a step toward the future.”
On the cutting edge of that is Passive House design, which is a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building’s ecological footprint. CP Executive notes that the most noteworthy example includes 310 N. Sangamon in Chicago’s West Loop, a $115 million project that will be the largest Passive House office building in the U.S. to date.