Tasteful finishes, luxury amenities and an enviable address are all common elements of a modern Class A building. However, there is an invisible force that, if missing, can prevent these buildings from delivering a true Class A experience: reliable digital connectivity.
“Tenants might move into these gorgeous buildings assuming that all their internet and cellular needs will be taken care of, only to encounter service outages or spotty mobile coverage,” said Arie Barendrecht, the CEO and founder of WiredScore, a firm that assesses and improves buildings’ digital offerings.
Because most tenants assume that luxury buildings come equipped with top-of-the-line connectivity, he said, some landlords and developers have not properly invested in their buildings’ digital infrastructure. Without proper planning, the result would be a generation of Class A buildings that may lack the basics when it comes to modern internet or cellular reception.
Especially as new technologies like 5G come to maturity, landlords and developers that want to keep a competitive edge should view digital infrastructure as a living, evolving piece of their buildings.
When evaluating new office spaces, tenants still rely on three major criteria — location, price and size. While those factors are certainly important, they leave a crucial blind spot when it comes to digital infrastructure.
“Think about the average building,” Barendrecht said. “It’s not uncommon for it to have been built before the internet, and in most cases before the emergence of smartphones and cloud computing, which has completely disrupted the way we work.”
He warned that tenants often don’t realize they won’t have suitable internet to support their business requirements until after they have moved in, when they lose working hours to downtime and when upgrades and repairs are more costly and disruptive.
However, it can be difficult for tenants to gather data on connectivity and to make fair assessments of buildings’ digital capabilities. They may be swayed by finishes and amenities that are crucial to attracting and retaining employees. But without proper connectivity, those employees will be left frustrated and unproductive.
Poor connectivity should be cause for concern among tenants, with Gartner reporting the average cost of downtime is $300K/hour for the average business.
Barendrecht founded WiredScore to bring transparency to conversations around connectivity, working with owners to certify assets based on their underlying digital infrastructure.
To become Wired Certified, buildings need to have measures in place to reduce connectivity loss and interruption. Levels of Wired Certification are assigned based on a building's ability to offer access to multiple high-quality internet service providers, a variety of cabling types including optical fiber and a highly resilient, secure digital infrastructure.
“These should all be prerequisites to be considered a true Class A building capable of meeting modern tenants’ needs,” Barendrecht said.
Buildings that have held the same tenant for decades may not have made any updates during their tenure, leaving them unprepared to enter the office market if the tenant leaves.
Tech-forward owners may have made the switch to optical fiber cabling 20 years ago, thinking that they would be set for the future. But Barendrecht said today’s fiber is light years ahead of those early iterations of commercial fiber, able to carry more information more quickly and more reliably.
He also cautioned that not all fiber is made equal. Some building owners have made the mistake of implementing residential fiber connections from providers like Verizon Fios in their commercial buildings. But these residential systems are not built to handle the workload of a full office or apartment building.
Indoor cellular reception — which can be spotty and unreliable — could worsen as technology advances. The millimeter-wave frequencies that will form the basis for the coming 5G networks simply can’t penetrate buildings, especially newer buildings whose insulating materials also block out cellular signals.
These frequencies also degrade over distance, which means that the higher you go, the worse your cell reception will be.
“Once you get above about the eighth floor, regardless of the building, the cellphone reception will generally begin to deteriorate,” Barendrecht said.
One solution to boost indoor reception is a distributed antenna system, or DAS, a tree of cellular nodes running throughout a building, connecting indoor spaces to outdoor cellular networks. But even buildings with an existing DAS may require upgrades to support new frequencies, Barendrecht said.
WiredScore’s mission is not just to help tenants make more informed decisions about their office space, but also to help owners and managers show off the fact that they have made significant investments to their digital infrastructure.
“Great connectivity is not a given, even in Class A assets — it requires investment and planning,” Barendrecht said. “We want to help every owner showcase those investments.”
This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and WiredScore.
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