Learning from a room of 50+ Property Directors

- Blog

A week ago we had 3 partners from the Innovation Gateway, Jo Saunders (RBS), Tim Golding (Tesco), and James Tiernan (UNITE students) on stage sharing their vision and experiences with the Property Directors Forum (PDF). The PDF, managed by Avison Young, is an exclusive, invitation only community of Occupier Property Directors. The group meet twice a year with the aim of giving a voice to occupiers, providing insight to important trends, and identifying challenges and opportunities.

The Innovation Gateway was invited along to the November meeting to allow the partners to share their unique approach to working together to reduce the operational costs and environmental impacts in their properties by sourcing, selecting and validating innovations, as well as sharing experience, data and knowledge.

As well as a panel discussion, there were round table discussions to encourage sharing of knowledge between attendees and we also heard from George Bromfield of Brooks Macdonald about the financial markets post Brexit and Trump.

The day offered a fantastic opportunity to network and was a valuable chance to learn from a diverse community of property directors about their challenges and priorities.

I took so much away from the day that this could have gone on a while, so instead here are 3 of my key take aways from the day.

1.      The hunt is on for the next big opportunity in energy saving now (nearly) everyone has implemented LED lighting. 

Regardless of the types of buildings being managed, everyone was keen to learn about potential innovations that were emerging that would see the same cost benefit and user experience the industry has seen from LED lighting. 

The risk involved with sourcing and investing in innovations that will reduce energy consumption and thus operational costs is still a huge barrier. Even our partners who are industry leaders and committed to sourcing, selecting and trialling innovations in their buildings, struggle to find the budget to implement new technologies. However they and many others are seeing real benefits from investing in energy reducing technology. Tim Golding of Tesco gave 3 examples of innovations they are working on;

  • HSG- a sensor for mens urinals to reduce number of flushes that is saving them thousands of litres of water,
  • Williams F1 - hydrofoils they are developing with Williams to reduce cold air escaping from fridges and freezers,
  • Arborea – a thermal insulation panelling system for roofs to reduce building heat loss, that also contains a microalgae that cleans the air whilst generating a biomass

2.      Collaborating is key to reducing the costs and risks associated with implementing new technologies within occupier’s property portfolios.

The attendees on the day held similar roles but were from varied industries and looked after a diverse range of property portfolios. Despite this the challenges discussed were very similar and the conversations during the networking sessions, round tables and even the questions being asked demonstrated that they could all learn valuable lessons from eachother.

During the panel discussion Jo and James discussed how they had both made similar mistakes with the same company and service that wasted time and money. They are both sure that had they been a part of the Gateway at the time at least one of them wouldn’t have made that mistake. Collaborations are excellent at helping to avoid these costly mistakes when implementing new technologies and groups such as the Property Directors Forum that are fostering collaboration have a real impact.  

3.      A little bit of politics….

George Bromfield of Brooks Macdonald gave a fantastic overview of the current financial markets and how they have been affected by the likes of Trump and Brexit. Clearly the impacts of these decisions are there but they are yet to be fully realised.

Certainly we have seen an increase in foreign investment in UK property due to the weaker pound but on home turf there is a shift towards improvement over expansion. The general consensus was that the focus is on getting the most out of what occupiers have got. This includes negotiations on rates and rents which despite still being very high in the South of England have more wiggle room for negotiation in the North. The door is also wide open for improving the running costs of these assets. This has been achieved through upgrades such as LED’s so far but there is lots of scope for further improvements. Focus areas include HVAC, employee engagement, agile working and travel and transport. 

To learn more about the PDF....

The write up from Avison Young is now available here.