Around the world, mixed-use developments – a blend of office, retail, residential and/or hotel space – are becoming bigger, more common, and ever more integrated into the real estate environment. Indeed, in many built-up areas, the much heralded ‘vertical village’, with its mix of work, accommodation and entertainment space within one zone, is becoming a reality.
Already popular in Singapore, Hong Kong and China – where they have been performing very well – these facilities are becoming more commonplace in Australia as density increases and councils learn to embrace the concept, and are particularly valued when paired with transport nodes, such as train stations, making infrastructure more efficient.
“Central business districts want greater complexity of use – mixed-use precincts create vibrant, more attractive cities, which attracts more visitors,” says Richard Fennell, JLL’s Head of Property & Asset Management in Australia. “Mixed-use precincts like Sydney’s Barangaroo – which pair office, residential, hotel and leisure space – will start to become the norm in Australian cities.”
But, a changing landscape brings new challenges – and these unique assets are re-moulding the property and asset management industry.
“Buildings of the future, and how they are managed, will be incredibly different from today’s structures, requiring new technologies to manage them and new strategies to keep their occupants happy,” explains Fennell.
“Buildings will need to be designed to promote new ways of working – accommodating walking meetings, standing rooms, running tracks and health centres, all focussed on helping occupants to attain their health goals whilst in the workplace.”
This complexity makes mixed-use assets a different beast to manage than single-use forms.
“They are certainly more difficult to manage – you’re trying to get varied components to work together in order to produce a much better result for the developer, the owner, the occupiers and the community,” Fennell says.
But, with challenges come opportunity for managers of mixed-use properties. Regardless of how sophisticated a building’s systems are, data from a single-use asset is limited by its nature. With the modern ‘internet of things’, a manager can see in real time how all systems across the entire asset are operating – HVAC, lifts, security and more.
“By merging the data from multiple systems and even multiple mixed-use assets, asset managers can understanding information on a holistic, rather than general, level,” explains Fennell. “This allows them to see the whole picture, rather than a disjointed fraction, producing a better, more tailored service.”
So, how can managers make best use of these opportunities? According to Fennell, the most successful managers of mixed-use properties will need to evolve their skills set.
“Property managers of the future will need social engineering skills as much as traditional engineering experience, and will be more responsive to digital and social media, as occupiers will use those channels to interact with the building and each other,” he says.
“High-level skills will be needed in order to read and integrate the torrent of data.”
“Management teams need to change, too – with increasing sophistication, each member must become more specialised so the team can function at a higher level.”