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Real Estate and Technology: The Future of Workspaces

May 28, 2019

During the May 2 EisnerAmper Real Estate Principals Summit in San Francisco, three tech leaders participated in a panel titled the “Intersection of Real Estate and Technology: Tech Leaders Discuss Their Market Impact.” On hand were Carla Boragno, SVP of Global Facilities for Genentech; John Bruno, VP of Global Real Estate Procurement for Workday, Inc.; and Elton Kwok, GM for the Northern California region for WeWork. Jim Wunderman, President of the Bay Area Council, acted as moderator.

Jim led an engaging discussion that covered design, sustainability, urban trends, and preserving Bay Area tech growth. Given the current state of extremely low commercial inventory and the multigenerational demographics of the current tech workforce, one key challenge is to repurpose existing workspace to accommodate tenants and visitors. As Elton noted: “People want energized, community workspace. This is more important than benefits.”

Flexible work schedules and onsite amenities—such as health centers, gyms, meditation space, nap pods and ergonomics labs—all encourage employees to gain that ever-elusive work/life balance, which can result in enhanced retention and productivity. One component of this balance is work center proximity to transportation hubs and public transit. “The BART station next to our campus is a tremendous advantage for retaining and recruiting employees,” said John.

The contemporary workforce places a high value on environmental stewardship. As such, the panel discussed environmental measures their firms take. For example, employees can receive bonuses for reaching sustainability goals regarding energy and resource efficiency. Companies are aggressively pursuing carbon neutrality, LEED certification and net-zero energy buildings to meet these goals. Policies range from granular (e.g., filtered water fountains to encourage reusable bottles) to holistic (e.g., placing new facilities near public transportation) in terms of their scope, reach, and impact.

The panel foresees an increasing number of workers moving back to cities, despite the current shortfall of housing and transportation in our urban centers. As Carla advised, “Companies need to be part of the solution. We need to work with Bay Area municipalities to improve infrastructure and development of residential space.”

The panel agreed that to preserve Bay Area tech growth we need to think regionally instead of provincially. There are many potential solutions, but stakeholders will need to collaborate to solve these issues.

Read our “Battle of the Bay” blog that shows where San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco stand with respect to new real estate deals.


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