It was only in 2015 that the first landlords signed-up their buildings to be Wired Certified in the UK. The concept and understanding of a digital connectivity standard being applied to office buildings was in its infancy. The early adopters were pioneers and had the foresight to see that connectivity was going to be key to successful tenant experiences in the future.
Four years later and everything has changed - digital connectivity is top of the agenda for the built environment and there is a general sense from the real estate industry that identifying the right digital infrastructure is now a ‘must have’.
Why has the conversation changed so dramatically in such a short space of time? The permeation of new and ever evolving technology in society, the reliance on cloud computing and a new customer centric approach to commercial real estate has led to a dependence on tech in our working lives and the fact that we just couldn’t do our job without it.
The digital connectivity of our workplace has become a central part of the conversation and there is evidence that it is also moving towards becoming part of the regulatory agenda as well.
The British Council of Offices (BCO), an organisation that champions best practice for those involved in creating, acquiring or occupying office space in both the private and public sectors, recently released its updated guide on building specification stating that: “As with other building rating systems, Wired Certification should be considered during the planning and construction phase of a development which offers the best opportunities to plan for optimum connectivity for both the building and its future occupants.”
The GLA is mapping areas of poor digital connectivity, which is helping to provide an instant analysis of buildings and is supporting London boroughs and others as they address their connectivity issues and ambitions. Education and access to information is key to ensuring an understanding of digital connectivity.
The City of London has incorporated connectivity into The City Plan 2036, its consultation document on planning regulations for the City of London: “Digital and telecommunications network demand, including full fibre wired and wireless infrastructure in line with the Mayor of London’s ‘WiredScore’ connectivity rating or equivalent and flexibility to address future technological improvements.” This new planning document will likely be formally adopted by the City of London in the next 12 to 18 months.
However, as business has learnt from the past, regulations are usually one step behind what is already happening in a market and are usually framed around what is successfully working to improve that market.
The agent community is evolving and modernising quickly and have embraced the use of, and understanding of, technology. They are aware and are knowledgeable of the WiredScore rating offer, which allows them to introduce it into conversations with their tenant clients.
Agents are strong advocates and for good reason. They do not want their clients asking them in a year or two why they didn’t advise them on the digital infrastructure of the building where their new office is. If it is not up to the high standards they need now nor future-proofed for at least the length of their lease, they want to know why not. Soon digital infrastructure and connectivity will become a standard clause in all of Heads of Terms.
Asset management is the new digital front line. Landlords are becoming increasingly aware that they need to embrace the digital infrastructure and connectivity of their buildings – new and old. Research shows that WiredScore rated buildings achieve higher rents than those not rated.
Many landlords are starting to react to the issue by improving all the buildings in their portfolio, not just new builds, as a building’s connectivity needs to be re-rated every two years to ensure it meets the needs of new dynamic technology. They need to keep their assets relevant, as soon they will be unable to lease old floor space if it doesn’t meet the connectivity standard required for businesses today. If they can’t lease space their asset become worthless.
We need to continue to create the right digital infrastructure in order to support the future of our cities, businesses and workforce. Whilst we don’t advocate for heavy regulation as layers of red tape can lead to a slowdown in progress, we look forward to the standardisation of digital connectivity throughout the built environment, as agents, landlords and developers alike look for more effective ways to deliver for their clients’ evolving needs.