by James Calder
Over the past two decades, single-use office buildings have steadily been becoming outdated. Now that remote work is increasingly common, many single-use office buildings remain vacant in markets around the world.
The very nature of work is changing, which means tenants’ requirements are changing as a result, meaning buildings that don’t adapt can (and should) be expected to underperform. Given this reality, landlords and developers must understand tenants’ new requirements to create the right combination of different uses for their buildings, as well as the correct level of service and possibilities for experiences.
Tenants’ Changing Needs
For many employees, work is no longer about sitting at a desk and doing the 9-to-5. The ability to do certain tasks at home more productively, the flexibility to harmonize work better with life, and the futility of the long commute mean organizations use office space differently than before. While previously, they may have needed dedicated offices for each individual, workers can now rotate in and out of shared offices. In addition, leasing large gathering spaces that sit idle most of the time no longer makes sense for many tenants. For these reasons, many organizations are reducing the square footage they lease for core functions.
Meanwhile, today’s tenants desire an assortment of different spaces that foster collaboration and connection, such as places to host team- and culture-building activities, induct new hires, and engage in mentoring. Teams also want to eat together or socialize, which requires properly-outfitted spaces like restaurants and coffee shops. That’s why they are looking for third spaces they can use only when needed.
In addition, like-minded organizations want to create ecosystems of activity that add business value and help drive their purpose. That’s why buildings that include spaces where people from various concerns can congregate will attract tenants more effectively than those in which tenants are siloed off from each other.
Creating the Mixed-use Buildings of Tomorrow
There’s no one right way to develop a mixed-use building, since each needs to be tailored with regard to its unique circumstances. Location often drives the mix of tenants, which drives the demand for different amenities and flex space in turn.
For example, the advertising and public relations sector requires restaurants, event space, and even accommodations. Lawyers, on the other hand, need case or matter rooms for long trials, and tech start-ups often prefer low-cost incubator spaces with the option to lease large spaces for all-hands days and social events.
Incorporating mixed-use spaces is easy with new construction — particularly at the ground plane and on top of the building — yet, many existing buildings with good core locations and structures can be hacked to achieve exciting new building types. Repurposing them in this way also has the benefit of increased sustainability.
Vibrant Places to Live, Work, and Play
As the nature of work evolves, single-use buildings will continue to fall out of use. The good news, however, is that adapting spaces for multiple uses will not only meet tenants’ new needs, but also create more vibrant places for everyone to live, work, and play.
James Calder is global director of user strategy at ERA-co.