Chicago Grid sat down with Colin in his Aon Center office to discuss his view on shrinking cubicles and shifting work ethics. Here is an excerpt from that Q&A.
Q: Much has been written about shifts in the labor market — more contractors, remote workers, constant connections. How does that affect the office leasing business?
A: The office environment will be as required as ever because even in the flexible working world people do need to come together in order to interchange with their colleagues — less than they perhaps used to because they can do it very effectively with mobile devices — but nevertheless they need some sort of anchor in their professional lives.
Q: The size of the average office space is shrinking, and so is the cubicle. What does that do for demand?
A: Over time, it decreases perhaps the overall demand for space, but it increases the demand for certain sorts of space. High quality spaces located around transportation hubs, around lifestyle centers like the center of Chicago, high quality buildings, environmentall friendly buildings — because that’s what the younger generation increasingly wants to be identified with, as do corporations.
Q: Tell us about the calculus of retrofitting a building to make it more environmentally friendly. What kind of investment do you recommend to a client?
A: If we move in and do a building audit, we can reduce the costs to run a building by maybe 15 percent, just by re-tuning the efficiency of the chillers, making sure the thermostats are set properly, sectioning off some of the lighting or putting efficient lighting in. That has almost no incremental cost.
Then there’s a whole bunch of stuff where you can get pretty attractive one to three-year paybacks. It’s replacing the light bulbs with modern efficient incandescent lighting. It’s replacing the thermostats so the switch-on, switch-off times are more accurately monitored. Just simple stuff.
Generally speaking, avoid the exotic technologies. Generally speaking, photovoltac cells don’t work without big subsidies and lots of exotic tax breaks. Putting windmills on the top of buildings doesn’t work. It’s the old and tried stuff that works very well.
Q: Do you see the real estate community getting more interested in sustainability or has it peaked?
A: They paid almost no interest to (sustainability) 10 years ago. That would be unthinkable today. Think ten years forward, as people continue to see storms, and water continues to rise and ice continues to melt and floods happen in New York; it’s going to continue.