On the night of Monday, March 30th, the Empire State Building unveiled a new design for its mast, from a signature white to a flashing red display. The design represents “the heartbeat of America with a red and white siren” and pays tribute to health care workers, who are battling on the front line of this pandemic.
The symbol also underscores the importance of the built environment during a time of crisis and the ways in which the various forms of real estate play an important role within a community—from the network of distribution facilities to essential services within our retail buildings to apartments also functioning as home offices for many.
Although we are still moving through the acute phases of this crisis, we can already take steps to prepare real estate in light of the pandemic, both in terms of the operational aspects needed today as well as planning for the restoration of operations within buildings currently closed.
From an operational perspective, the crisis has raised issues around the “Social” of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), particularly as it relates to health and wellness, where topics such as air quality have become increasingly important, along with tenant/resident communications, resilience planning, and community engagement.
For real estate managers, we believe in the continued focus on reducing expenses during this period, and managing energy and consumption can present a strong opportunity for savings in buildings experiencing lower occupancy. These savings can translate into benefits for both landlords and tenants and help them to achieve their environmental goals.
Over time, we believe there may be long-term implications to the way we invest in and manage real estate.
First, it will be important to think about how we better design healthy buildings across different property types.
Second, the new technologies that drive a more virtual world will likely necessitate that buildings have connective infrastructure and capacity. And sensor-based connectivity can help to serve as the first line of defense within the built environment, from creating contact-free systems to better screening of entrants and monitoring building health around key indicators.
This experience also raises an opportunity to enhance the partnership between landlord and tenant to better align incentives and collaboration on the topic of sustainability, which can help to create better outcomes for tenants, the property and the environment.
Ultimately the tools we use to manage through a post-COVID world, including health and wellness, smart buildings, and resilience planning are intrinsically linked to our sustainability programs and form an important part of how we think about ESG within real estate.
With the lessons learned, we can continue to implement, adapt and evolve these programs to create healthier and more sustainable buildings.
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