Cushman & Wakefield: How Covid changes corporate real estate and facilities management

/ EdgeProp Singapore
June 3, 2022 10:30 AM SGT
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Natalie Craig, managing director of C&W Services Singapore and Anshul Jain, managing director of Southeast Asia and India, Cushman & Wakefield (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore).
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Anshul Jain, Cushman & Wakefield’s (C&W) managing director for Southeast Asia and India, likes the noise of an open office. “It actually energises me and I can work better,” he says. “If you put me in a library setting, I would probably be asleep in five minutes.”
C&W relocated its CBD office from Samsung Hub to CapitaSpring, a new 51-storey, Grade-A office tower, on May 11. It occupies an 11,400 sq ft office space on the 47th floor. The CapitaSpring office leveraged C&W’s expertise in workplace strategy, and interior design studio Matthew Shang Design Office’s forte in hospitality interiors.
“We took a risk by having a hospitality designer create our next-generation workplace,” says Jain. That risk paid off. “You walk into the lounge, see the view and immediately feel relaxed,” says Jain, referring to the lounge at C&W’s CapitaSpring office. It has an unblocked view of Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown and the Greater Southern Waterfront beyond. Another corner offers a view of Marina Bay Sands.
A disproportionate amount of space has been given over to public areas for people to sit and enjoy the view, according to Jain. The best corner views have been turned into collaborative spaces for informal discussions. The CapitaSpring office has a capacity of 150 people, but there are only 68 workstations. However, there is a wide variety of seating arrangements, from booth seats to discussion areas and meeting rooms to accommodate everyone.
The hospitality inspired design of the Cushman & Wakefield' office at CapitaSpring by MSDO (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Most of the enclosed spaces, from meeting rooms to phone booths for video conference calls, have glass panels. “We don’t want people hidden behind walls,” says Jain. “It’s about being transparent, and that’s our culture.”

‘Serious investment in Singapore’

Besides the office in the CBD, C&W has another 36,000 sq ft office space at ESR BizPark (former Viva Business Park) on Chai Chee Road in the east. It is the office of C&W Services, the facilities management (FM) and engineering services arm of C&W. The space underwent an overhaul last year that was completed and officially inaugurated on March 23, 2022, by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin.
Both the new office space at CapitaSpring and the revamped space at ESR BizPark reflect “a serious investment in Singapore, where we’ve been for over 50 years”, says Jain.
Among C&W’s businesses, the most entrenched in the local market is C&W Services Singapore, headed by managing director Natalie Craig. It handles government facilities and institutional buildings in sectors ranging from education and healthcare to sporting and leisure facilities. For example, C&W Services is the facilities manager for Singapore Sports Hub. “We have a very broad set of expertise, but are very Singapore-focused,” says Craig.
The Library at C&W's CapitaSpring office, designed for silent working (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

‘Living lab’

C&W Services’ space at ESR BizPark is positioned as “a living lab”, where new technology is being tested — from face recognition to other touchless security systems and robotic cleaners.
Even the mobile application for C&W staff to book workspaces or meeting rooms at both offices in Singapore had been tested at the lab before it was rolled out. “We want to encourage people to come back to the office and work in an activity-based environment,” says Craig. “From the app, you can see where your co-workers are sitting, so you can book a space or meeting room near them.”
The plan is to eventually allow food delivery on the app, as well as add on other perks and benefits for staff. “Things like that have now become part of the FM services that we need to offer our clients,” she says.
The office at ESR BizPark is intended for 500 people, but it has only about 160 workstations. “We’ve done some surveys to fit utilisation, and we’ve found that only about 60% of the office workstations are actually utilised,” says Craig. “But we want to be able to accommodate everyone when they come in, so there are enough seats, but not in a workstation setting.”
Different work areas in an 'activity-based environment' at C&W Services office at ESR BizPark (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Both C&W offices at CapitaSpring and ESR BizPark have adopted a hybrid workplace strategy to cater to different working styles. “If we want people to be productive, and we want to bring out the best in them, then we have to respect their differences,” says Jain. “That philosophy has been adopted at both C&W offices in Singapore.”

Corporate headquarters ‘out of date’

The C&W today is the result of a US$2 billion merger with the TPG-backed DTZ in 2015, which vaulted the firm to the ranks of the top three global real estate firms. On May 2, the New York Stock Exchange-listed C&W reported 1Q2022 revenue of US$2.3 billion ($3.2 billion) and service line fee revenue of US$1.7 billion, up 21% and 27% y-o-y respectively.
In terms of contribution to revenue by geography, the Americas led the way with 89%, followed by Asia Pacific which accounted for 8%, and Europe and the Middle East with 3%.
C&W is headquartered in Chicago. However, global CEO John Forrester lives in London; president and COO Michelle MacKay resides in New York; and president Andrew McDonald is in Los Angeles. “The concept of corporate headquarters is out of date,” says Jain.
Jain: Corporate clients today are placing greater emphasis on sustainability in their decision-making matrix when they look at build (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
He sees C&W’s offices in Singapore as “a regional hub” for Asia Pacific staff and clients who are passing through. With border restrictions lifted, Jain will once again be travelling as he oversees the corporate real estate business in India and Southeast Asia, with services catering to multinational companies (MNCs) ranging from commercial leasing to tenant advisory and capital markets.
The last 12 months saw C&W emerge as Singapore’s leading capital markets broker with the highest number of transactions of CBD commercial buildings. These were 55 Market Street, PIL Building, 112 Robinson Road and Maxwell Road, and were transacted for close to $1.2 billion in total. C&W capital markets business in Singapore is headed by its executive director Shaun Poh. (Find Singapore commercial properties with our commercial directory)
The office at CapitaSpring is the home base for those at C&W whose businesses are transactional in nature, for instance, those in capital markets and commercial leasing. “That’s because 80% of their clients are in the CBD and within walking distance,” says Jain.

Growth areas

Besides Singapore, another market that is seeing strong growth is India. “I think India is going gangbusters,” observes Jain. In the mid-2000s, India was where MNCs located their call centres and simple business process outsourcing.
The sector that has seen the highest growth owing to the pandemic has been data centre​
and it's an area where C&W has established a Centre of Excellence with a data centre specialist in every market
That evolved into artificial intelligence (AI), data security, advanced software development, global capability centres, as well as global research and development centres. “The largest companies around the world have put their value-added services in India,” says Jain.
That has fuelled “tremendous growth” in demand for office space in India — “in the region of 40 million to 50 million sq ft annually”, he adds. The first-tier cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Pune in North India, and Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad in South India have become “big hubs” over the past decade.
Now, it’s the secondary and even some of the tertiary cities in India that are benefitting. “Many people moved back to their hometowns because of Covid,” says Jain. “Now they don’t want to return to the big cities. So, the companies are setting up offices in their hometowns instead. Hence, there has been a pickup in demand for office space in the secondary and even tertiary cities in India.”
Vietnam is another market that is seeing growth, says Jain. He attributes it to the “China Plus One” strategy. In Vietnam, it is the industrial, warehouse and logistics properties that are benefitting. And this has fuelled growth in other sectors of the economy, he adds.
Meeting rooms and discussion areas at C&W office at CapitaSpring (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The sector that has seen the highest growth owing to the pandemic has been data centres. C&W has deepened its investment in its data centre advisory team globally, and especially in Asia, according to Jain. Every market in Asia now has a data centre specialist to advise both data centre owners and investors. “We have a global, dedicated data centre team staffed with data centre experts,” says Jain.
C&W has been involved in data centres “in bits and pieces” over the last eight years. “But we really pressed the pedal sometime in late 2020, when we saw the acceleration in demand for data centres after Covid struck and e-commerce took off,” says Jain.

Sustainability, wellness drive flight to quality

Another area that has grown in prominence since the Covid outbreak is sustainability. One reason is the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow last November, which set out more ambitious emission targets by 2030. That has led corporations to drive their own sustainability plans.
“Corporate clients today are placing greater emphasis on sustainability in their decision-making matrix when they look at buildings,” says Jain. “Pre-Covid, sustainability was just part of the overall corporate social responsibility agenda, with a 5% to 10% weightage. In the post-Covid, post-COP26 era, that weightage has increased significantly.”
Increased focus on sustainability and wellness since the pandemic (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
That, in part, explains the flight to quality, adds Jain. With client requirements increasing both in terms of sustainability and wellness, he expects to see “billions of dollars” spent on upgrading older buildings. “Otherwise, they run the risk of obsolescence,” he says.
Indeed, C&W Services’ Craig has seen a rise in demand for A&A (additions and alterations) as clients are focused on the health of their buildings. “We see quite a lot of requests for A&A, asset retrofit, upgrading of air-conditioning systems and chillers, upgrading of processes to achieve new energy-saving targets,” says Craig.
Since Covid, wellness has become “critical” for employees, and hence, for employers too. According to Craig, C&W’s sustainability team is therefore working towards gaining accreditation in wellness, in order to provide wellness consultancy services too.

Tech, data-driven FM

The adoption of technology in FM has accelerated due to Covid. It’s in part driven by manpower shortage and war for talent, as well as clients’ need for more information about their facilities. “That comes from the focus on committing to sustainability targets, and not just reducing emissions,” says Craig.
Craig: Technology has definitely become a much greater area of focus in the delivery of FM (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
These clients therefore want to know more about their buildings and how they are performing, she adds. That has led to a shift towards a more data-driven service offering. “Data analytics has become more important,” elaborates Craig. “We are looking at different machine-learning and AI tools that can supplement the way we collect and analyse information.”
Drones are being used to perform services such as façade inspections, an area that has grown in importance since Building and Construction Authority introduced the periodic façade inspection with effect from January. Buildings that are older than 20 years will have to undergo an inspection every seven years.
“Technology has definitely become a much greater area of focus in the delivery of FM,” says Craig. “And I think it’s going to be something that continues to grow and develop over this next generation.” She adds: “In the past, we’ve always looked to employ FM professionals, and then teach them data science. I think that could now be reversed: We bring in people who specialise in data sciences and teach them FM.”
Check out the latest listings near CapitaSpring, ESR BizPark

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