The world of work will be transformed by the arrival of 5G. For landlords, ensuring they are providing their tenants with the seamless connectivity of the technology offers will become vital for future proofing the building, while companies themselves will benefit from 5G enable facility management systems that can slash energy costs. Employees will also be able to enjoy more flexible working thanks to 5G’s speed making VR and AR meetings a reality.
Zak Ikponmwosa
partner - Adddleshaw Goddard
Zak specialises in Real Estate Finance and is co-head of AG's Offices sub-sector of Real Estate.  His work covers a variety of complex, structured and cross-border transactions and his clients include developers, sponsors, investment banks, insurance companies, funds and clearing banks.
Greener buildings - smarty buildings will cut office energy and water consumption

Efficient decision-making - Real time data on operations and facilities management, such as floor usage, will inform decision making

Virtual meetings - 5G’s higher speeds will make virtual meetings through AR viable

Productivity - 5G’s higher speed and bandwidth allow more users to be on the same network, and, crucially, communicate over networks faster
Main impacts of 5G on Offices
  • Greener buildings with smart tech cutting office energy and water consumption
  • Efficient decision-making thanks to real-time data on operations sourced from various locations will empower more effective strategic decisions
  • Increasing productivity for an ever more mobile workforce - 5G’s higher speed and bandwidth allows more users to be on the same network, and, crucially, communicate over networks faster
  • Infrastructure costs - embedding 5G throughout a building is expensive and more physical infrastructure is required
  • Security concerns - with more devices connected and data being provided and swapped, the risks of a data breach are higher 
  • How to future proof a workplace? extra space will always be needed to house hardware
Q. How did you build market share?
A. This is really down to how we work with building owners. There are a number of ways to improve mobile signal in a building but many of these are short term ‘sticking plasters’ and can often leave people very disappointed. We have instead focussed on high quality infrastructure that will be able to deliver on the building needs into the future as demand grows and new technologies come along. WIG’s focus on quality and the sustainability of the infrastructure we deploy has led to many of our real estate relationships covering multiple buildings. For our customers such as intu, the UK’s largest owner of shopping centres, better connectivity can increase dwell time and really make a difference - so we know how important it is to ensure our networks perform. We also have a pioneering approach to how we think about ensuring our infrastructure is always at the forefront for new developments. We have many firsts in the UK and when your building becomes part of our network you are tapping directly into that opportunity to be part of the first wave of any new technology.
Q. How important is dedicated indoor infrastructure?
A. “Research from the CBI shows that 81% of firms see more reliable mobile connectivity as essential. There are over 20,000 premises within the M25 that are between 50,000 and 300,000 sq ft and comprise offices, hotels, hospitals, factories, educational facilities and other public buildings. WIG’s mobile infrastructure service allows these buildings to benefit from ubiquitous mobile coverage in their building”.
Q. What does indoor network infrastructure typically require?
A. Indoor infrastructure is typically made up of antennas or radio points deployed throughout the building which propagate the signal. These are connected back to a control unit in a rack, housed in a comms room using fibre and structured cabling, which then connects back to the mobile operators’ core network. The combined infrastructure provides dedicated coverage to a venue, independent of the outdoor signal and shareable between operators. To take the example of the Leadenhall Building, the antennas in there are much smaller than in, say, a stadium environment. At around 20cm diameter by 4cm they’re about the size of a smoke alarm, so they can be discreetly distributed on each floor. There are about 240 antennas distributed across 45 storeys which averages around five or six antennas per floor but given the building’s unconventional wedge shape you have a greater number of antennas on the lower floors. These antennas connect to a series of hubs which in turn connect back to a comms room where we have located our control equipment and mobile operator radios. Some of the best mobile signal in London is available on the 45th floor, something that would be impossible without dedicated infrastructure.
Q. Will you need to take out your existing networks to provide for new 5G coverage?
A. The infrastructure we deploy is 5G-ready, so as 5G gets rolled out we have a fast and efficient upgrade path for our customers. Our networks are always designed with future demand and advances in mobile technology in mind, so we don’t need to rip the networks out and start again. We work collaboratively with the mobile operators on required technical changes to accommodate new 5G spectrum but the underlying infrastructure (fibre, cabling, antenna systems etc) all remain the same. And that’s one of the great things about the neutral host model – we take away the hassle for the building owners, we take care of the technical challenges and we liaise with all the mobile operators for them.
Headquartered in Edinburgh and backed by 3i Infrastructure plc, a long-term investor managed by a FTSE 100 UK investment house, WIG enables mobile signal in all types of building right across the UK. In London this includes offices and campuses including Canary Wharf, King’s Cross and the Leadenhall Building as well as other key venues such as Lord’s Cricket Ground, The Savoy Hotel and the ExCeL London. We caught up with Vijay Sodiwala, Commercial Director, to find out how WIG’s focus on quality infrastructure, real estate partnerships and a pioneering approach has led it to become the UK’s clear market leader for indoor networks. “When WIG started out over ten years ago, we initially focused on supporting the mobile network operators in delivering coverage across the UK’s wider geography. Today we operate around 2,000 high capacity communication towers in suburban and rural locations. As an independent operator of towers we were able to create high quality infrastructure that is now used by all the UK mobile operators. As mobile users began to demand high quality signal where they work, rest and play one of the key challenges became delivering this experience inside buildings – particularly those in cities. Getting signal inside modern buildings with their steel frames, concrete substrate and metallised glass windows is a unique technical challenge. And it’s not just a matter of getting the signal in, it needs to be delivered throughout the building with sufficient capacity to provide a great mobile service. As new mobile services are launched such as 5G, and bandwidth consumed increases, the problem is getting worse and the only way to deal with this challenge is to deploy dedicated mobile infrastructure into the building. Working closely with building owners we found that the commercial model was as important as the infrastructure itself in addressing the problem. Mobile operators are spending many billions of pounds on upgrading their wider networks across the UK to enable 5G and extend coverage to rural areas; and for each operator to build out their own networks in the thousands of buildings across the UK, this simply is just not viable. This is where WIG was able to step in as a neutral host – investing in a single high capacity infrastructure that is used by all the mobile operators. We are called neutral because we are there to deliver and manage the infrastructure so that the mobile operators can connect with their customers. One of the important changes we’ve encouraged is for building owners to think about the value of having best in class connectivity. Working with a neutral host like WIG let’s the building owner really take control of resolving the issue”.
Vijay Sodiwala
Indoor Networks Commercial Director, Wireless Infrastructure Group
Wireless Infrastructure Group is the UK’s leading neutral host wireless infrastructure provider and has pioneered the deployment of coverage inside buildings enabling excellent signal from all mobile operators
Q. And finally, where else can neutral host make a difference?
A. Tackling rural not spots is a key priority for our industry and government. Our experience at developing high capacity rural communication towers couple with our track record of neutral host infrastructure in the busiest buildings in the UK mean we are well equipped to support initiatives to address rural not spots.
You may well use Wireless Infrastructure Group’s (WIG’s) networks every day, given that they enable mobile service in buildings that have over 1.25 billion of annual visitors, but you won’t know their name because they are a neutral host operator, and whichever mobile network you are on, that’s the name you will see on your mobile phone.
Wireless Infrastructure Group: Pioneering Indoor Mobile Coverage Solutions
Perkins and Will’s Jack Pringle
Jack Pringle is one of Britain’s best known interior architects. A former Riba president, Pringle grew his own practice with Chris Brandon and merged with Perkins and Will in 2012. Pringle believes that 5G will have a profound effect for any industry – like architecture – where many people need to simultaneously collaborate on massive files in real-time. This will have an impact on workplace design as firms are no longer tied to power or Ethernet cables. “If you went back 20 years, you’d have expected a response in a couple of days,” he says. “Now, in the age of Slack or WhatsApp, if someone doesn’t answer right away you’re disappointed.” He thinks workplace design is continuing that direction of travel to ubiquitous wireless and is steadfast in his defence of open-plan offices.
“It democratised the workplace more than any school of management. Everyone wants choice in their life. The old model preserved hierarchies where information was only shared on a “need to know” basis. Now that’s all gone and we live in a world collaboration. Recent projects we’ve completed have seen dramatic falls in absenteeism and significant increases in wellbeing thanks to the right mix of private desks and shared areas, with dynamic spatial arrangements mixing people from different floors together.”
Pringle admits security is definitely an issue, but he believes the tide is coming in and more conservative occupiers recognise they need to shift. One thing that excites him is the potential for holographic video conference. “Feeling like you’re genuinely in the room with people could finally take us to the point where video conferencing replaces physical meetings,” he says, pointing out the obvious environmental benefits. Yet this remains tough with people you haven’t met. “To have a proper relationship with someone you have to have met them in the flesh,” Pringles adds. “If you know them you can have an effective video conference with them because you understand their body language and know their nuances. But if you don’t know them, it can be tougher to interpret what they’re saying.” Despite the potential for holograms and avatars taking off, Pringle doesn’t see offices dying out anytime soon. “You’ll always need somewhere to meet people. Companies are built upon culture and community,” he says. “If the office is dead as workspace, long live the office as a meeting place.”
Real Estate faces an unprecedented step change amid a myriad of technology-related influences.  For example, the rise of e-commerce is fuelling rationalisation among retailers, while modern offices are being transformed by the technology that enables increasingly collaborative workspaces.  As investors in global real estate we just ask ourselves if this is this something we should fear or can the industry accommodate it in its stride? At Aberdeen Standard Investments we see such changes creating some potentially exciting long-term investment opportunities. The rise of technology has many complicated facets, but is being driven by some easy-to-understand factors. Tenants are less certain of their future needs and therefore require greater flexibility. It’s important to remember that many of society’s basic needs centre around real estate and that isn’t changing to any great degree. This is not to deny that the rise of technology has some significant consequences for the real estate industry. Shorter leases might serve to alter the reliance on long FRI leases secured against financially robust tenants. But equally occupiers still need space; we believe that they will pay a premium for the right space in the right location. If that can be determined, provided and supported by the landlord, then surely this creates the reliable real estate for our clients’ future investment returns, and in that sense nothing much has changed.  The tilt from long and contracted income through to shorter term, less secured, but perhaps higher income is a dynamic that all investment managers should be able to embrace. Some locations will become functionally obsolete due to technological change, but it was ever thus - acceptance and preparedness for change is a paramount factor in good long term investment management of real estate. These changes will force managers to take a longer-term approach to their investments. It makes them recognise that the right buildings can derive attractive income returns even when technology leads to changes in the underlying tenants. We will probably see fewer long-lease contracts, but in turn they will likely become more highly valued by cautious long term investors. How will shorter tenancies affect valuation? Advancing technologies will force managers to keep real estate modern and adaptable to the faster pace of change of their underlying tenants. This just implies an increased focus on good asset management. Investment managers will have to budget for the resources to maintain buildings to an optimal standard.
This will merit a critical shift in the attitude of investment managers. As an industry, there will need to be greater acknowledgement of the operational factors and finances of the tenants.  This logic can easily be extended to suggest that managers should be prepared to engage with tenants in the sharing of revenues. If the landlord is confident of the qualities that underpin a location or its building, then what better way of ensuring future revenues than by collaborating with the underlying occupier. With regard to our approach to technology, has anything really changed with the relationship between tenants and their landlords?  Ultimately not really. Cautious long-term investors will continue to see real estate for what it has always provided: long-term, dependable income streams. That of course is predicated on landlords owning buildings that their consumers wish to occupy.  We increasingly see that for the right buildings in the right sectors the disruption caused by technology reinforces a focus on good estate management.  That doesn’t sound so scary after all; real estate investment was always about the underlying real estate being fit for purpose.
Andrew Allen,
Global Head of Investment Research - Real Estate, Aberdeen Standard Investments
Having created an entire 97-acre district from scratch out of London’s disused docklands, providing the equivalent of 16 O2 Arenas of office and retail space, Canary Wharf fought off competition from the City and firmly established itself as a global hub for banking. With Crossrail providing a massive upgrade to physical connectivity, linking people with Heathrow in just 40 minutes, Canary Wharf is getting ready for a new generation of residents.
Q. What were some of the most significant decisions taken from the start in futureproofing the estate?
A. During the early 1990s, we embedded 25 miles of underground pipe duct infrastructure for telecommunications cabling under the road network across the estate. This has meant that we haven’t faced the challenges that other developers often do when it comes to connectivity. A developer building a single office block in the City that wanted to upgrade to fibre would have to get a wayleave agreement (a deal between a property holder and an OFCOM-regulated telecoms provider, which gives the telco access and permission to install communications infrastructure on that land) to install the required cabling from the road into their building. It takes several months to go through the legal process of acquiring (and negotiating financial terms on!) a wayleave agreement, and if there isn’t a usable duct available the provider may need to dig up the road during installation.   We don’t need to do any of that here if we need to upgrade or have a different type of supplier - we can put it in straight away through our duct infrastructure. It’s a huge differentiator between us and the City. That one decision 30 years ago means we can offer the fastest connectivity available. Anyone with a 5G-enabled phone can come to Montgomery Square in Canary Wharf right now and achieve download speeds of over 700MB per second. We’re applying all those same lessons that have allowed us to be ahead of the curve at every step so far to Wood Wharf.
Q. How have you dealt with the challenge of retrofitting buildings on the estate originally built to accommodate huge servers, lots of cabling across large floor plates?
A. The main challenge with retro fitting any older building blocks is getting the connections to get through the walls and flooring especially when the floor to ceiling heights in older buildings are not large. So in a similar way to the duct network under the roads of the Canary Wharf estate as a whole, the buildings are pre-designed with comms riser space for the connectivity required for wired & wireless infrastructure – and ready for any future upgrades – to be installed in. Buildings on our estate are designed with dual cores, with two risers – vertical ducts, essentially – that go all the way up the building and allow us to install fibre to any floor, all the way throughout the towers. So if the likes of SocGen wanted superfast connectivity for their trading floor, we can easily hook that in quickly thanks to that design. For tech firms such as Intel, Digital Shadows and Revolut who enjoy having large teams communicating together, large floorplates actually work really well and enable companies to rework space to best suit their working practices – whether it’s through the creation of quiet space, creative rooms or collaborative working areas.
Q. Is there any specific additional infrastructure you’ve had to install across the estate to make it 5G-ready?
A. To preserve the aesthetics of the estate, we’ve worked closely with mobile providers and focused more on installing small cells to add 4G/5G capability, instead of large macrocells, which offer a lot of capacity and coverage over a wide area but need to be supported by large outdoor masts. Those masts are typically about as tall as a two-storey house and are quite challenging to make unobtrusive, so we’ve opted for a network supported by much more discreet small cell radio antennae, which provide a much more limited coverage range each – in the tens of metres indoors – but which are themselves about the size of a pizza box, so can be installed en masse to provide comprehensive coverage without many people even noticing they’re there on the backs of lamp-posts or in shopping centre ceilings. This also fits in with one of the key challenges for indoor 5G, which is that we want to try and stick to installing multi-operator hardware. Ordinarily if you’re installing masts, it will limit you to just a single operator – so EE will work on it, but Vodafone won’t. We didn’t want to have a lot of large antennae out there just to provide all of the mobile operators, so we’re working with the likes of Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG), Cisco, and the mobile operators themselves. All in all, Canary Wharf’s connectivity infrastructure is made up of roughly 100 antennae, 6 cells and 16 masts spread throughout the estate.
Q. What’s the upside in using a third-party provider for installing this infrastructure rather than doing it yourself, given you’re the stewards of the estate?
A. Ofcom licenses what is called ‘Code Powers’, referring to the Electronic Communications Code which came in in December 2017. Code Powers allow Ofcom-regulated operators such as WIG to operate a radio frequency legally and also allows them access to perform the street works necessary to install network infrastructure. That’s what allows mobile operators to have masts, rather than anybody who wants to set one up.
In an ideal world, we would love to be able to deploy 5G easily the way Code Powers allow, because it would give us much more flexibility across the whole neighbourhood. But this isn’t possible. So we’re committed to working with the best third-party operators in the business and looking at installing things like ‘fixed wireless’ Wi-Fi ourselves which offers similar sorts of speeds to 5G.
Q. How could the Code Powers system be improved?
A. We would like Code Powers to be more flexible, as currently they give mobile operators a great deal of power over landlords in terms of being able to dictate where masts can go. Operators can effectively demand masts be installed on a given roof space on your estate, citing the benefits for the public, and while they do pay installation costs and a reasonable rent for the space, it can create issues with occupiers. It’s a little like someone demanding the roof of your house or the bottom of your garden for a massive telecommunications mast, although we of course see the upside in being able to offer flexibility and connectivity for our customers. It’s just that with so much tenant demand for sky gardens and other entertainment or leisure facilities in roof spaces these days, we have to balance this with mobile operators’ requirements very carefully.
After EE acquired its 3.4GHz spectrum and needed to test its infrastructure in a real world setting, Canary Wharf was an obvious choice, with average footfall across the area of around 150,000 people every day putting coverage demand and performance pressure on the network. As pioneers of 4G services in the UK, our testing of 5G services was a big milestone achievement for EE.  With a seismic shift towards housing more technology and professional services firms alongside the traditional Canary Wharf tenants across financial services, taking a leading role in the provision of 5G will allow the district to evolve into its next exciting phase.   Having developed over 16m sq ft of mixed-use space – roughly equivalent to 16 O2 Arenas worth of space – and one of the world’s foremost business districts, Level39, Europe’s most influential fintech accelerator, Canary Wharf has nurtured homegrown UK tech unicorns such as Revolut in the environs of One Canada Square. The company is now focused on developing Wood Wharf, a new residential-led waterside community tailoring space for a range of uses and to the highest architectural and sustainability standards.
Mark Nallen,
Head of technology and innovation - Canary Wharf Group
Q. For you as a landlord and investor, what are some of the tangible outcomes you see 5G delivering for your customers – whether that’s tenants or end users?
A. The shift in demand that we're seeing from occupiers currently is their desire to give employees more freedom and flexibility, and their drive for productivity. The two are linked, as that freedom and flexibility generates increased productivity. Consumers now want everything on demand. We need to help our tenants provide everything as a service. Technology has created an era of “generation me” where almost anything can be personalised. Giving companies the ability to have a fully flexible working environment can massively help them attract and retain talent – which is the biggest challenge for tech firms. Thanks in large part to Canary Wharf, productivity in the area is the highest in the UK (72% above the average) and the closest European counterpart to the world’s leading innovation cluster in California (Silicon Valley and San Francisco) according to the Milken Institute and the Office for National Statistics. This is something that we want to continue to enhance. 5G will do that by allowing an employee of a Canary Wharf tenant to work from their roof terrace, or from a park bench overlooking the water, just as easily as they would from their workstation with really fast reliable speeds.
Q. Thinking about the retail estate - which with over 300 shops, bars and restaurants covering 845,000 sq. ft of space, has a much more prominent role at Canary Wharf than it did at the outset of development - what role do you see data having in placemaking and curating a better retail experience?
A. Potentially being able to mine all of the anonymised data gathered from the retail estate - on footfall, entry points, dwell times, whether purchases do or don’t occur – could give you a far better picture on the areas that need more focus. Whether it’s in individual retail units or in the communal spaces, being able to detect from biometric sensors whether a customer is feeling stressed or tired or is in a bad mood, and adjusting the lights, music and air conditioning as a result, would make a huge difference to improving the customer experience. Data has huge potential for wayfinding and accessibility too. We work quite closely with Google and Apple on enhancing their maps of our estate, as Canary Wharf is a fairly complex location in that regard – as our retail malls are quite dispersed and on various levels, some people can find it difficult to get around, so using the indoor Wi-Fi fingerprints picked up from phones to identify areas where customers might end up feeling lost and in need of directions from a retail map is particularly useful. Our retail partners will obviously take control over everything inside their stores, but given the focus on fashion and luxury brands, we should expect to see a raft of innovation – whether it’s around virtual dressing rooms, AR-visualisation tech so people can personalise products or the potential to alter in-store environments to suit the needs or moods of customers.
Q. In terms of office occupiers, who are obviously at the core of the estate, do you see technology affecting what future tenants look like?
A. Finance obviously isn’t just about banks anymore - it's far more varied than that. The merging of tech and finance is set to continue growing ever closer. The infrastructure we’ve got has been key to cloud-enabling tech that supports start-ups across a range of industries, as they can get up and running more quickly. A lot of our scaling tech companies at Level 39, for example, don't really use our cabled internet – so we’ve actually done away with it. They all use our secure Wi-Fi network and go through the cloud. That’s a good example of how occupiers are changing the way they work, and I think we’ll also see a shift in other ways too, such as workplace culture. Currently, dense, open-plan office environments are predominant. We are starting to see signs of employees craving more focused work away from the open plan environment, so that could lead to a more hybridised situation where occupiers need more cellularisation with quieter, smaller office spaces. That in turn is why 5G and Wi-Fi will likely complement each other, as if there are more individual office spaces, it will be harder for signals to get around the building.
Q. What difference do you see 5G making in terms of managing sustainability?
A. It’s very exciting for us as an estate manager, as the Canary Wharf Group is absolutely committed to sustainability. Canary Wharf can already lay claim to having the lowest emissions of anywhere in London – we’ve so far achieved climate science-based targets for emissions reductions, which is the level needed to limit global warming to a 1.5 degree increase. We’ve also committed to – and largely succeeded at – ending the use of single-use plastics on the estate, leading by example and encouraging tenants to follow suit (which they largely have!), as well as installing water refill stations across the site and implementing a plastic bottle deposit return scheme. In addition to that, we have a zero waste to landfill initiative, and our electricity comes from 100% renewable sources. It’s a standard that follows through in some of our developments: 1 Bank Street, the Canary Wharf HQ for the trading arm of French bank SocGen, is rated BREEAM Outstanding, and so are all of our buildings at Wood Wharf. All of that is immensely appealing to companies focused on wellbeing. The sheer number of devices that will be able to monitor heat, water and internal air quality, importing data in real-time, will make a massive difference. From AI being able to detect the sun coming down on one side of the building and adjusting the blinds and heating levels to match, or detecting that a meeting room ready for twenty people only has two in it, and reducing the air conditioning as a result, it will enable much smarter buildings that emit much less CO2 as a result. But there are also a lot of unknown unknowns - in what occupiers could do with the sheer amounts of data 5G-enabled sensors will be able to collate, and its potential in terms of providing a better experience for retail customers, employees and residential tenants. But our integration as a company – offering the same provider managing the residential estate, the office buildings, and the infrastructure of the space - is going to ensure we can benefit from whatever the potential is of the technology.
Tarun Mathur,
Leasing executive - Canary Wharf Group
Q. What difference do you see 5G making in terms of managing sustainability?
A. It’s very exciting for us as an estate manager, as the Canary Wharf Group is absolutely committed to sustainability. Canary Wharf can already lay claim to having the lowest emissions of anywhere in London – we’ve so far achieved climate science-based targets for emissions reductions, which is the level needed to limit global warming to a 1.5 degree increase. We’ve also committed to – and largely succeeded at – ending the use of single-use plastics on the estate, leading by example and encouraging tenants to follow suit (which they largely have!), as well as installing water refill stations across the site and implementing a plastic bottle deposit return scheme. In addition to that, we have a zero waste to landfill initiative, and our electricity comes from 100% renewable sources. It’s a standard that follows through in some of our developments: 1 Bank Street, the Canary Wharf HQ for the trading arm of French bank SocGen, is rated BREEAM Outstanding, and so are all of our buildings at Wood Wharf. All of that is immensely appealing to companies focused on wellbeing. The sheer number of devices that will be able to monitor heat, water and internal air quality, importing data in real-time, will make a massive difference. From AI being able to detect the sun coming down on one side of the building and adjusting the blinds and heating levels to match, or detecting that a meeting room ready for twenty people only has two in it, and reducing the air conditioning as a result, it will enable much smarter buildings that emit much less CO2 as a result. But there are also a lot of unknown unknowns - in what occupiers could do with the sheer amounts of data 5G-enabled sensors will be able to collate, and its potential in terms of providing a better experience for retail customers, employees and residential tenants. But our integration as a company – offering the same provider managing the residential estate, the office buildings, and the infrastructure of the space - is going to ensure we can benefit from whatever the potential is of the technology.
  • Over 120,000 people working on the Canary Wharf estate
  • Footfall of over 140,000 people per day 
  • Designed and built 16m sq. ft of office and retail space 
  • 35 completed buildings and 3 shopping malls 
  • Helped local SMEs win £761 million worth of business 
  • Over 600 local people supported into sustainable employment each year in association with Skillsmatch 
  • Over 1,200 young people supported through mentoring and work placements 
  • 1996 first fibre laid 
  • 75 miles of fibre
  • 1.2Gbps Wi-Fi 6 speed can go up to 5Gbps as hardware becomes available throughout the coming 12+ months
  • 125,000 Population of area 
  • 72% higher than the UK average Productivity (Milken Institute, ONS)
  • 23 acres of land to the immediate east of the current Canary Wharf estate
  • 5 million sq. ft mixed-use environment across 33 buildings
  • 3,600 new homes providing a mixture of sale, rental and affordable units
  • 2 million sq. ft of commercial space suitable for 20,000 workers, 
  • 9 acres of interconnected parks, squares, courtyards, pizzas, boardwalks
  • 15 Water Street (190,000 sq. ft) fully pre-let to 4 different uses
  • First three residential buildings to open in 2019 with first phase of commercial space to follow in 2020 / 2021.
Mitie provides facilities management and professional services to the public and private sectors, covering office buildings to manufacturing plants, across multiple sectors including healthcare, transport, local government and many more.
Q. What can new tech do for facilities management?
A. Firstly, we want to use data and advanced analytics to move the industry from being reactive to predictive, and from an input-based to outcome-based service model. Secondly, we are using sensor technology and connectivity to move from the local to remote management of facilities. Thirdly, we are looking to move processes from manual to automatic to allow our people to focus on more complex and human-centric tasks. There are already a surprising number of things that can be done automatically or remotely in FM. We have a strong technology-enabled approach to our services, as we see it as central to the long-term evolution of the industry.
Q. What are your views on 5G?
A. 5G is not fully shaped but it has several potential applications in facilities management. One of the main applications for us is the ability to connect many devices (the internet of things) with very low power, both supporting a high density of sensors, and improving the coverage of the area being monitored at the same time. This will facilitate remote monitoring of sites, predictive maintenance and proactive interventions, amongst others. Most sites do not have the embedded technology required to provide ‘smart management’. Wired devices are too expensive to deploy in legacy infrastructure, Wi-Fi simply isn’t practical for power consideration, and solutions using unlicensed spectrum are difficult to scale up. With 5G we expect to be able to connect and manage thousands of devices with minimum effort and at a low cost.
Q. What kind of things can you measure?
A. Almost everything that happens in an office or on a site is important for us and our clients. For example, we are using under-desk sensors and cameras that, without capturing personal information, detect how many people are on a floor, or whether a desk is occupied. We are also developing a mobile app to provide employees with a tool to report issues and request services, as well as aid interaction with their space. We also use sensors that monitor environmental conditions that affect the employees’ comfort such as temperature, humidity, CO2, light and noise levels. These are what we call ‘soft’ services. On the ‘hard’ side, where we are responsible for maintaining mechanical and electrical systems, we monitor for vibration, differential pressure, and other parameters. This allows us to measure the performance of these assets to identify potential issues and perform demand-led maintenance to minimise any impact on our client’s business.
Q. Is this type of technology available today?
A. Most of today’s technology allows the ‘smart management’ of workspaces but there are important challenges that limit the ability to deploy at scale. For example, most sites have Building Management Systems capable of measuring and controlling the operation of equipment, but most of them do not have external connectivity. In addition, the comprehensive monitoring of buildings and sites requires many devices and sensors and managing all these is quite complex - from installation to ongoing management, upgrade and support. We are developing internal capabilities, exploring new options available in the market, and using our deep understanding of buildings and workspaces to overcome these challenges. For example, we are using the substantial knowhow we have acquired in this space to start deploying Internet of Things solutions at scale. However, 5G has the potential to simplify the management of devices and provide a more consistent framework for interoperability, and therefore accelerating adoption.
Headquartered in London, the company operates throughout the UK providing bespoke solutions to develop high performance work environments. It provides service-specific offerings ranging from integrated facility management, to engineering services, security and cleaning. It also offers consultancy, project management and a range of specialist services, including environmental, energy, compliance, and risk consultation – managing buildings with sustainability and wellbeing in mind. The digital transformation of facilities management is a central strategy of the company, and its ‘Connected Workspace’ technology is a key enabler to achieve this objective. Using mature and emerging technologies such as big data, internet of things and data science, the digital approach enables more efficient service delivery and offers greater value to its clients. Alejandro Navarro, Director of Connected Workspace, explains how such technology can assist in the management of offices.
Alejandro Navarro,
Director of Connected Workspace
Explains how such technology can assist in the management of offices.
Q. How is the data used?
A. Capturing and processing data to extract actionable insight is what matters in the end. Interpreting the data can help us understand the performance of a building, the occupancy levels, usage behaviours, environmental conditions, issues and opportunities for cost and comfort. As a provider of integrated facilities management, our clients trust us with a large and diverse set of their workspace data. We are acutely aware of the value of this data but often it is fragmented and in silos which restricts the ability to extract insight. We understand the exponential benefits of aggregating these data sets to provide new and powerful insight, and we are investing and developing internal capabilities in Data Science and Data Engineering to aggregate and to analyse large and complex data sets.
Q. What is the advantage of the data?
A. This is an industry that has traditionally relied on manpower, but basic cost-pressures must be met while meeting clients' demands for continuous improvement. Technology and data are key to delivering efficient services. The smart use of data can save money through better decision making, automation and remote management, whilst enabling demand-led and outcome-based services. This is opposite to following predefined activity schedules that often do not reflect actual needs. There’s also the management of the work environment to create a comfortable and productive space. Many want to reduce their property cost by optimising the usage of office space (a major cost for most buildings), and data enables understanding usage and decide on the best way to reduce space without affecting employees experience. Having a comfortable and productive workspace is imperative to ensure there is a benefit to staying within that work environment.
Q. Do occupiers know what they want?
A. Most managers are aware that technology is a game changer and that data is the key for improvement, but many are waiting to follow rather than take the lead. They understand the potential but don’t want to be pioneers due to risk and compliance reservations, and the need to prove the return on investment. That said, I do not think that we as FM provider nor our clients have an option here, digital transformation is a must have and the sooner the better as there is a substantial learning curve. We are already well advanced on this journey and we are working with several of our top clients already, but there is still much to be done.
BRUNTWOOD: THE OFFICE PERSPECTIVE – Enabling the extraordinary
Of course, part of that offer means a good degree of connectivity.  However, it's tricky to crystal gaze five years into the future to see what that might look like, so initially we focus on building the foundations.  Our buildings are there to support our customers, ensuring their businesses are successful and, importantly, to fuel their growth. The quality and amenity in our spaces is key in supporting the war on talent, and that means providing a great space to work in, which allows teams to work in an agile way that suits them and their business needs, including the ability to move information quickly and build networks. But, it does also mean being up to date with new technologies and ways of working.  For instance, Bruntwood was the lead partner in the Internet of Things (IoT) technology Demonstrator, focussed around energy, power consumption, and a virtual power plant, alongside applications for smart buildings and smart management of space. The demonstrator was located in the buildings at Manchester Science Park as part of CityVerve – the UK’s only IoT city demonstrator project.
Keep it smart, keep it sustainable
For us, smart tech is about smart design, construction and management, and joining the dots between all of them. It will also be particularly important in enabling developments to be more sustainable going forward. This is something which is becoming more and more prevalent for our customers, not only in terms of aligning with their values, but also their employees’ values and what they prioritise when it comes to  choosing an employer.  We will be using technology to help us deliver Bruntwood’s sustainability goals – and our commitment to Net Zero Carbon. New technologies will allow us to better monitor our, and our customers’, energy consumption using trend analysis to make smarter decisions, while having 5G will support the ability to analyse a large amount and range of information, make decisions, and implement changes in real time.  Building Information Modelling (BIM) is commonly used up to Level 2 at the moment, challenges arise between design and construction / delivery. We want BIM to do something more – to connect technologies.  We are working with technology partners to understand how we can bring forward digital twin platforms which are a digital version of a physical asset that collects real-time information about it, how to make them work and what it will add for us and our customer experience. I think 5G will be key here to help with the quantum of information which will be held in a digital twin, and necessary to make it a truly useful tool. Due to the length of time it can take to get a large masterplan scheme – such as Circle Square – delivered, embedding future flexibility is vital, via the infrastructure behind the scenes. At Circle Square, we designed an underground masterplan to support the different nodal points needed, making sure we provided as much connectivity and redundancy for future tech as possible now. This means that in the future there are multiple ways of providing connectivity – for example, lampposts with the ability to connect to conduits and sensors.
Tech and the community
Connectivity can bring with it some challenges. For instance, who is responsible if a business’ critical connection is lost? Third parties often provide connectivity through the risers direct to customers, so it’s the responsibility of the service provider. But, if something happens to the building, or a cable was cut, that’s a different question entirely.  We believe our customers are more interested in a brilliant space to work in with a community that they connect with. But there is technology out there to help customers use their space more intelligently.  For example, de-personalised sensors that can monitor and measure the change in space use. The information provides visual reports such as heat maps – these can then be used to make decisions on how much space, and what types of spaces businesses really use and need.  I am a big advocate of sensors that can do more than switch the lights on and off. These types of ever-evolving technology are ones that are likely to make a huge difference to our existing buildings as well as to our future development plans. Most importantly, they will be key in helping us manage our energy consumption and carbon emissions and being Net Zero Carbon in line with our commitments.
At Bruntwood we’re creating places that are competing on an international stage such as Circle Square, which means we focus on the quality of the space, their surroundings and what happens in those spaces.
Making a connection
Aisling McNulty,
Development director - Bruntwood
The long road ahead
Paying for and implementing 5G infrastructure are going to be far from simple.  Arguably much of the publicity we see around it now is there to justify the massive financial costs of outlay – either from government, or from operators. Simply put, there has to be enormous potential application for this increased connectivity, otherwise we are just not going to be able to pay for it.  To make matters even more complicated, the provision of mobile phone networks is a competitive landscape. There are hundreds of providers across Europe, which means no centralised body to provide the infrastructure.  Thus thinking there is a one size fits all solution for the UK that the government could define and provide is not the right approach. What we should aim for is coordinated action between stakeholders.  This is just the preliminary aspect of provision - the next and probably more important is considering which new customers can pay for it through new applications.  New data packages for consumers are not going to cover costs – even if more and more are opting for unlimited data - considering the increased density of transmitters needed.  As such operators are beginning to hunt for other users that can add to revenue. Those users and their demand will realistically drive the roll out of 5G.  For instance, car manufacturers who will need 5G chips in each car they build, but requiring far better connectivity along roads than we have now, is a well cited example. This will in turn affect the entire logistics industry and asset tracking within it, another strong use case.  Alternatively in the built environment, office developers who advertise a perfect 5G connection throughout their building could be an important new revenue stream, especially if occupiers do decide to go down the route of no WiFi, only 5G, which will add extra strain to usage. In general, getting higher frequency connectivity into buildings is harder. While there are solutions for making assets 4G accessible – costing from the tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds, none yet exist for 5G.  The answer is twofold. Small cell, which is akin to having a WiFi network in building, and distributed antennas, which look like little antenna distributed throughout a building and bring a mobile feed from the operator into the building.  For either, deals will need to be struck with providers, and then presumably passed on to rents.  This means a new source of revenue for the telecoms providers, and a competitive advantage for the owner, which could potentially see the speedy spread of 5G into new, and existing, developments.
Sanjaya Ranasinghe,
Technical Director - WiredScore
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