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Making The Wrong Assumptions About Office Tenants Post-Pandemic Could Cost Landlords Time And Money

Building owners and property managers who splurge on high-tech, touchless technologies to safeguard buildings after the coronavirus pandemic are at risk of throwing away money on unnecessary amenities, building management professionals say.

Apps are being used to operate hotel doors and much more, reducing the need to touch surfaces.

"When you start talking about investments in technology, the investment in things that allow for a truly touchless experience throughout an office building, I think one of the questions is whether that investment is going to pay off over time," Boston Properties Senior Vice President Pete Otteni said while speaking on Bisnow's webinar about trends shaping the DFW office market. "Are people going to want that in the future?"

Running a cost-benefit analysis on the implementation of touchless tech solutions or other cutting-edge building technologies that have captured headlines since the coronavirus outbreak is difficult to do with buildings still dealing with a growing remote workforce.

One of the biggest challenges is gauging what tenants are going to demand in terms of safety amenities after the pandemic, especially since only 5% to 20% of them are back on-site depending on the property or market, Rubenstein Partners Managing Principal Brandon Huffman said. 

"It's difficult to know exactly what tenants are going to want when they are back at full occupancy or at least 50% occupancy," Huffman said. "A lot of these safety protocols frankly become completely unnecessary when you have only 10% of your labor force within the office suite." 

Otteni pointed out that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, check-in areas at buildings were all the rage, but they gave way as tenants demanded better and quicker access. With this in mind, building owners and operators remain wary of more costly investments to combat the coronavirus.

But one thing that must change inside every building without question is a focus on a facility's air filtration system, experts say. Tenants are already demanding additional details on air sanitation and HVAC systems when meeting with building management teams. 

"I don't remember a time when an office tenant was uber focused on the air filtration standards," Huffman said.

Now, he said, this is the first feature you will be asked about when speaking with office tenants.