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KBS Rolls Out New Tech Platform For Returning Office Tenants, Hopes It Will Spur Them To Lease More Space

Amid the slower-than-expected return to work, one major U.S. office landlord is rolling out a new technology platform across its portfolio that it believes will help tenants bring employees back. So far it has done more than that — it has convinced some to expand their leases. 

The One Washington Center office building in Gaithersburg, Maryland, one of the first six buildings where KBS is rolling out the Maptician platform.

KBS is partnering with Maptician, an Atlanta-based proptech startup, and has launched its workplace management platform at six office buildings in the D.C., Atlanta and Pennsylvania areas.

The office owner plans to launch the platform in the Chicago area by the end of this month and then begin to roll it out across its $8B national portfolio, KBS Eastern Region President Marc Deluca told Bisnow

California-based KBS owns 72 office buildings totaling 23M SF. Some buildings in KBS' portfolio remain around 30% capacity, with companies hesitant to bring workers back. 

KBS believes the launch of the tech platform will help tenants return to the office, and it also has early evidence that companies are expanding their leased footprints after analyzing their floor plans with Maptician, creating a greater return on investment for the landlord. KBS declined to say how much it is paying for the Maptician software.

In some cases after tenants analyze how their spaces are being used, they decide they will need to lease more space in order to maintain appropriate social distancing, Deluca said. One tenant in Atlanta, which Deluca declined to name, added 2,300 SF to its 6K lease after using the platform. 

"We have companies coming back into the office and realizing 'I need some additional space because of social distancing,'" Deluca said. 

The platform gives companies the ability to design floor plans and stagger work schedules for social distancing, reserve common area spaces and identify areas where there is risk of crowding. It does not use sensors or cameras to track employee movement, but instead it has employees schedule the times when they will be at their dedicated desk or in common areas. 

KBS is implementing the technology in the common areas of its buildings, which are accessed using key fobs that allow the landlord to see how many people are in the space. It is allowing tenants to individually choose whether to use it in their workplace, Deluca said. 

"What we found hugely helpful with the software was first off to get people that are in our building comfortable with using spaces throughout the building while still maintaining the [distancing] requirements," Deluca said. "The second has been tenants embracing it to figure out 'how can I get people back to work in shifts or get to a goal where I have my entire office back but still maintain some degree of social distance?'"

Deluca said the return to the workplace has been a slow process. He said the KBS-owned buildings in Virginia and the Carolinas are in the 30% to 40% range for office capacity, while South Florida is returning faster with buildings at nearly 70% capacity. He thinks the visual analysis of a tenant's space usage that Maptician provides will help companies feel more comfortable returning to work.

The Maptician platform shown on a laptop and a mobile phone.

Maptician was founded in 2017 with the goal of helping office landlords and tenants better analyze how their spaces are being used. The pandemic has led to a much greater focus on how employees interact in the workplace, as owners work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and Maptician has adapted its product to help them in these efforts.

While it can't erase the risk of employees contracting COVID-19 while in the workplace, Maptician hopes its product will help office tenants feel more comfortable returning to work. The company has launched new offerings that allow companies to stagger their work schedules to minimize employee contact, to analyze social distancing in the workplace, to pre-screen people for health before entering and to contact trace after any potential positive COVID-19 cases arise. 

The suite of offerings, called Maptician Flex, costs tenants about $110 per month for the first 100 occupants, with a decreasing per-person cost as the number of occupants increases, Maptician co-founder John Wichmann said. 

"Maptician Flex helps serve companies who are grappling with the challenge of getting back to the office in a safe and organized manner and being able to operate that with pre-screen health checks, contact tracing, risk analysis and things like that to let them get back into the office in a manner they can get their arms around," Wichmann said.