Smart buildings in Cannes

The quality of the person or firm who pays the rent is a key fundamental of real estate investment, so when The Lens Blog donned sun cream and visited Cannes recently to attend the largest property conference in the world, MIPIM, a panel of first-rate tenants caught our eye. The panel included Rob Towne, who leads Microsoft’s 500-acre real estate portfolio in Puget Sound, and aimed to give some insight into what occupiers expect from developers.

‘Connectivity’ was a key theme, with Towne saying Microsoft’s need was not just for real estate that was secure, sustainable and accessible, but also “connected”. By this we can safely infer a keen interest in how technology is playing a bigger role in property management. ‘Smart buildings’ are the tech-enabled buildings of the future and are set to become an important theme for all players – construction firms, landlords, tenants and investors – as they look to technology for help with reducing real-estate management costs and increasing returns.

The panel was called ‘Thinkers and Leaders: Driving Change’ and its focus was on real estate as an enabler for economic growth, sustainable performance and community cohesion.

Participants had their own nuances about connectivity. For Judy Marks, president of the elevator maker Otis, connectivity’s role is important for companies that today may no longer be so much physically centred as “virtual”. In planning for these kinds of tenants, developers need to evidence their focus on connectivity at the building stage, Marks said.

Not surprisingly, for Granit Gjonbalaj, the chief development officer of the communal business premises firm WeWork, connectivity was a key factor in building business communities.

But as well as connectivity, the issue of diversity was also discussed. The general feeling of the panel was that there is a lack of diversity in real estate and the topic should be made a top priority.

Ultimately, the future is exciting for real estate opportunities and the connectivity and diversity themes will be two of the most important topics that participants on this leadership panel expect to be aired, both at MPIM and within the wider real estate world.