Few things are impacting the commercial real estate (CRE) industry as much as the influx of new technological advances. At seemingly warp speed, tech is revealing new horizons of opportunity in the development, construction and management of CRE.
“Most of our capital expenditures emphasize new technologies and practices that either enhance the tenant experience, reduce the use of energy and water, or help minimize waste. We often find that the measures accomplish a combination of those goals,” said David Jenkins, senior vice president for capital project management at KBS. “From the installation of sensors that can immediately detect costly water leaks to the possible deployment of security robots, we at KBS are continually seeking out building innovations that enhance our already amenity-rich properties.”
Electric Vehicle Charging Expansion
Tesla has played a major role in creating one of the most expansive charging networks in the nation. It’s a network that will help support some 577,000 EVs sold in the first half of 2023 alone — a year-over-year increase of 47% according to Cox Automotive.
Now that Tesla is opening up its network to more automakers, such as Ford and GM, it’s emerging as the universal connector for all electric vehicle charging.
EV chargers aren’t new to KBS. The company began installing them at its properties more than a decade ago, with the most recent installation of 12 EV charging stations at Bank of America Tower, a 300,000-square-foot mixed-use property featuring 10 levels of office space above seven levels of structured parking and active first-floor restaurant space, as well as 42 charging stations at Park Central Apartments, a 286-unit multifamily development with 34,226 square feet of ground-floor retail space. Both best-in-class properties are situated in prime locations within Raleigh, North Carolina.
The rollout was such a success that the company is considering plans to continue the well-received enterprise nationwide.
“The installation of EV charging stations at these assets aligns with KBS’ commitment toward lowering our carbon footprint each year,” said Allen Aldridge, asset manager for each property and senior vice president, acquisitions/co-director of asset management for KBS. “Bank of America Tower, located in a prominent North Hills site, is a LEED Gold-certified, ENERGY STAR-rated building that has achieved the UL Verified Healthy Building Mark for Indoor Air. This property and Park Central Apartments are located close to transportation, shopping, dining and entertainment options. Designed with resource conservation in mind, both buildings are ideally suited to be among the first KBS properties to participate in this forward-thinking amenity.”
Electric Shuttle Extends Atlanta Tenants’ Access to Shopping and Entertainment
Located in the heart of Atlantic Station, KBS’ 201 17th Street building was already within walking distance of nearby restaurants, retailers, a fitness center and entertainment venues. But with the recent introduction of KBS’ new all-electric shuttle, tenants can now get a free ride from the property to more local amenities.
Christened the “Electric Shuttle Flyer,” it’s the first of its kind in the area. Available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the shuttle is particularly handy for lunch and dinner excursions, and shuttle service can be scheduled as early as 24 hours in advance through the building’s app.
“Ours is the first office building in Atlanta to offer a free shuttle service to its tenants,” said Bryanna (Hollis) Roberson, assistant property manager of Cushman & Wakefield. “Our tenants are constantly on the move, and the Electric Shuttle Flyer has become an immediate crowd-pleaser that’s easy to access and environmentally friendly.”
Exploring Robotic Security Solutions
TV shows like “The Jetsons” and films like “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “WALL-E” and “Star Wars” have given audiences an imaginative glimpse at the possibilities of what an AI-driven mechanism might someday actually become. While in real life we haven’t yet seen the likes of Haley Joel Osment’s David, let alone the Jetsons’ robot housekeeper, Rosie, technology is marching exponentially closer to making it a reality.
Today robots have taken on a wide range of tasks serving humankind, including maintenance, food deliveries and even dog walking. With an eye on new technologies, KBS has been exploring the use of security robots to patrol and improve safety measures at its buildings and assets.
“Because the safety, security and well-being of those who occupy and visit our properties are of the utmost importance at KBS, we’re constantly researching ways to enhance measures already in place,” said Jenkins, “like the high-definition surveillance cameras we’ve installed for a greater level of scope and clarity — not to mention the possibilities unfolding in the field of robotics.”
Knightscope’s K5 robot gathers information while “on patrol,” then passes along live footage via its slew of built-in cameras and sensors.
Home improvement retailer Lowe’s has launched multiple pilot programs involving the Knightscope robot, which isn’t armed but is equipped with features like thermal anomaly detection and ramp accessibility to boost surveillance within its area of operation.
A Breath of “Smart” Fresh Air
KBS has implemented several technological measures within qualifying office buildings to help ensure cleaner air.
First, it has upgraded air filters to MERV 13 (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating, which blocks 98% of pollutants and captures viruses, bacteria, pollen, fine dust and more. For perspective, most office heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have a rating of only MERV 8.
Ultraviolet Devices, Inc. (UVDI)-recommended filtration for HVAC service has also been employed in many office amenity spaces, such as lobbies, fitness and conference centers and coffee bars. According to the CDC, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) is one of the most effective technologies to minimize the spread of harmful airborne microorganisms.
“UVDI is our preferred application because it’s suited for larger HVAC units. We’re able to capture a large filtration of air, which can eliminate viruses, such as COVID-19,” said Jenkins. “It takes the air and recycles it through a filter in the room but also runs it across a UV light, which basically removes all kinds of viruses, molds and carcinogens.”
KBS is also installing sensors that help HVAC systems maintain KBS’ buildings at an indoor humidity level between 30 and 70% — an optimal range according to guidelines established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
Helping Buildings Come to Their Senses
Getting advance warning of a problem makes a world of difference when the stakes can prove dangerous, damaging and costly. This makes technologically advanced sensors indispensable.
Sensors that can identify pressure drops across ventilation systems are a fitting example. Pressure fluctuations can be a sign of dirty air filters and compromised indoor air quality. By detecting these signs in real time, sensors in KBS buildings are able to initiate immediate maintenance to resolve the issue.
Detecting water leaks is another way KBS is putting smart sensors to the test. A sensor placed in areas housing various building systems can send text alerts to building engineers and security personnel in the event of a leak — and even shut off the water when a leak is detected.
“Water savings has been of great importance to us lately,” said Jenkins. “By collecting and measuring system performance and status with IoT-enabled sensor technology, we can detect leaks as well as manage the risks of water damage. In fact, we upgraded to these IoT-enabled sensors in one of our Atlanta buildings, and we’re eager to see the results.”
On the engagement and communication front, KBS has added cellphone boosters to buildings to bolster connectivity — particularly in elevators, stairwells and other areas susceptible to dropped signals.
“We’re really focused on creating more of a community in the office,” Jenkins said. “Helping people stay connected via their smartphones is just a small but important piece of that puzzle.”
In addition, KBS is designing a new communications system that notifies tenants about building maintenance and other administrative matters; the information is then displayed on monitors placed throughout each property.
Also, wireless reservations systems for conference room bookings can match user requirements with room resource capabilities, including group size and technology sets.
Moreover, apps for property management and tenant relations are being further developed to include electronic work order systems that track trends, frequency and impact of repetitive tickets, therefore helping to prioritize issues based on operational, financial or occupant experience criteria.
Achieving Tenant Satisfaction Through Amenities and Technology
While it took a pandemic to convince most office workers that a highly advanced air scrubbing system was something they would arguably desire every bit as much as a convenient place to get a quick café mocha, technological advances are providing tools to make their overall building experience safer, cleaner, efficient and more enjoyable.
It only follows that CRE managers need to stay a step ahead of tenant needs, demands and trends — whether it be the addition of EV charging stations or the newest and most innovative coffee shops for their buildings. For example, Chicago export Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea, a coffee shop known for its dazzling array of craft-roasted coffee beans, opened in 2022 at KBS’ Highland Park Place. Not your average coffee shop, the Fairgrounds strives to capture a sense of wonder, excitement and discovery, making it one of the ultimate Instagram-worthy cafés.
KBS is working tirelessly to ensure that the technology of tomorrow is something tenants will get to experience — and sometimes rarely notice — today.