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Contributed- What Do Office Tenants Want? What Do Property Owners Need?

You hear it at conventions and on webinars, and you read it in articles: Wireless Connectivity is “table stakes” in today’s commercial real-estate environment.

From a tenant’s perspective, wireless connectivity is typically assumed to mean Wi-Fi and Cellular service as these most readily support the devices tenants most commonly use.

Is reliable wireless connectivity a “can’t live without” amenity today? Put simply: It Depends.

Hospitality, healthcare, higher-ed, sports and entertainment venues, malls, and casinos still head the list of buildings with a high likelihood of requiring enhanced wireless connectivity. But for many other building use cases ubiquitous wireless coverage may still be a way off. “As we move forward, tenants will demand wireless access, but most markets aren’t there yet,” says Barry Spizer, CCIM, principal of SRSA Commercial Real Estate in Metairie, La.

While cost and location are still the prime drivers for prospective tenants, technology and other considerations do enter into the equation. These may include enhanced security; amenities like on-site health-clubs, food services, banking, and shopping; reliable power; elevator capacity; storage; as well as some intangibles like open floorplans, aesthetics and “vibe.”

Technology for technology’s sake is tough to justify in businesses where NOI and increasing asset value are the key drivers.

For technology to prove value, one or more of the following must be true:

• Will this technology provide a positive tenant experience?
• Will this technology improve operational efficiency?
• Will this technology create revenue?

As we move through the discussion, we start to see the transition from “What Do Office Tenants Want?” to “What do Property Owners Need?”

As a result of recent changes to fire and building codes, property owners sometimes find they need yet another type of wireless infrastructure: First Responder / public safety wireless connectivity. While these mandates are now commonplace in states like Florida, Texas, California, Colorado, Ohio, Georgia, and others, fire and building codes requiring good First Responder radio signals inside buildings are gaining rapid enforcement in other areas, often catching building owners and managers by surprise.

At first glance, the technologies that ensure that first responder radios work inside buildings have none of the direct benefits mentioned above (with the possible exception of enhanced security). But a closer look reveals that these systems share many of the same requirements of Wi-Fi, cellular, and other building technologies.

Conduit, pathways, distributed power, space, cooling, and the labor and engineering required to support these public safety systems can be leveraged to justify incremental investment in tenant amenities that might otherwise not make the final budget.

Property owners and managers who include these technologies in their technology plans for both new construction and retrofits will set the table to realize return on their investments and be better prepared for the day when wireless connectivity truly is “table stakes” for all property types.

John Foley is Managing Director of the Safer Buildings Coalition. The Safer Buildings Coalition is the nation’s leading Trade Association advocating for improving indoor safety through the application of technology. www.saferbuildings.org

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