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To Be Considered An 'A' Building, Top Tech Is Paramount

WASHINGTON DC 07.20.2017

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Wilbur "Tom" Simmons -- Kimco Realty
Richard Lake -- Roadside Development
David Ward -- H&R Retail

Forget the bad rap the real estate industry gets for its low-tech approach. Developers are among many industry pros embracing the latest advances in technology to plan, build and market their projects.

To Be Considered An 'A' Building, Top Tech Is Paramount

From pre-development planning to design, establishing budgets, cost tracking, procurement, scheduling construction, seeking financing, doing marketing, brokerage, and trying to incorporate structures into the greater urban fabric, new technology is fast becoming an essential player.

The nearly 200 guests who attended Bisnow's Future of Real Estate event learned that along with views, amenities and rents, the strength of a building’s connectivity is becoming a prime factor in rating its quality and enhancing its appeal.

To Be Considered An 'A' Building, Top Tech Is Paramount

For developers, cutting-edge apps, software and services that allow an entire project team to work on permitting, plans and designs collaboratively, in real time, increase the efficiency of the project team and the quality of structures.  

Rivaling location, a building’s internet connectivity is rising on the "must have” list of owners and tenants, our panelists said. Shown, from left, are: Guerrilla Development Head of East Coast Development Anna MacKay, Boston Global Investors project manager John Hynes IV, The Davis Cos VP Stephen Davis, WiredScore CEO Arie Barendrecht and Honest Buildings account executive Neil Golub, who also was the moderator.

To Be Considered An 'A' Building, Top Tech Is Paramount

Nearly three years ago, Arie (above right doing some post-event networking as the room cleared out) and his partners launched WiredScore, which rates buildings’ internet connectivity. Already, developers such as the MIT Investment Management Co (MITIMCO), Beacon Capital and Alexandria are among the 100 owners in Boston, New York and DC that have signed up for WiredScore's service, he says. 

Quantifying a property’s connectivity isn’t just about measuring its technology. The rating becomes a major force in marketing a property, Arie says. Landlords know that tenants can be drawn to a building with superior internet connectivity whether it’s downtown or in the suburbs. Building owners and managers want a new technology to be reliable, and easy to adopt and manage. Tenants, in turn, are willing to invest more than in the past on building improvements to fortify their technology and internet structure, he tells us.

To Be Considered An 'A' Building, Top Tech Is Paramount

Property owners should look for new tech that makes their lives easier, says Stephen whose company this week started construction on an 85-unit condo building on Telford Street in Allston.

In a sign of tenants evolving preference for bikes and public transit, The Davis Cos cut the number of parking spaces to 84, down from the 150 spaces initially approved by the BRA. The city gave a green light to the project several years ago as part of The Community Builders’ Charlesview Residences complex.

After Davis acquired the site, the city again agreed to its changes: less parking, five more units. As for technology, some advances are making development teams more proactive and inclusive in various phases of a project, including pre-permitting. But even the best technology must be accompanied by thorough planning and smart project management, he says. 

To Be Considered An 'A' Building, Top Tech Is Paramount

John works on permitting, design and construction for Boston Global Investors, which is developing the 6.3M SF, $3.5B Seaport Square mixed-use development at the waterfront composed of 21 projects being done by various developers.

In any project, it’s critical for developers to use technology that produces smart data to gather information and enhance communication between the teams working on financial analysis, design and construction. Otherwise, they’re working blindly and won’t know the real project cost.

An estimated project cost based solely on a spreadsheet doesn’t cut it. But the human element still counts. Building a successful project calls for patience before launching construction. A developer who starts building without a well-coordinated design and budget can run into trouble, John warns.

Neil told us that the Honest Buildings data-driven project management and procurement platform was designed to alleviate this pain point for real estate owners and managers. It moves data from siloed spreadsheets to cloud-based software, enabling access to real-time information and team collaboration.  

To Be Considered An 'A' Building, Top Tech Is Paramount

Anna, who’s scouting for the first East Coast development opportunity for Portland-based Guerrilla Development, says technology is essential in the company’s effort to secure crowd investing. For the Fair Haired Dumbbell, a 56k SF office it's developing in Portland, Guerrilla is seeking crowd investors, and that calls for smart data and connectivity. It did a Regulation A raise that’s open to accredited and non-accredited investors in CA, OR, WA, MA and DC. The idea was to bring in diverse financial participants to further the project’s social value, a main driver of Guerrilla’s operation, she says.

To focus on space users, the firm designs “dumb buildings for smart people”; buildings that tenants can come into and use their tech preferences to make the space their own.

The event wouldn't have been possible without wonderful sponsors: WiredScore, Honest Buildings and SGA.