Our experts’ forecasts for 2022: what will 2022 hold for the property industry? 

From Building Technology to Placemaking to ESG, our experts look at the year ahead.

On Building Technology:

James Hallworth, Senior Associate, Building Technology

“The biggest priority for 2022 for both occupiers and investors will be harnessing technology to measure, analyse and optimise indoor air quality (IAQ). Being able to demonstrate good IAQ to occupiers will make them feel safer when using offices and retail spaces, resulting in more valuable spaces for building owners.

While there is a wide range of occupier-facing apps on the market, it’s only when a building benefits from intelligent operating systems that rigorous operational data can be delivered to occupiers. Intelligent building operating systems mean that M&E plant can be centrally monitored, analysed and controlled, often resulting in cost-efficiencies and ESG benefits, as well as increased occupier comfort. In 2022 we will see a wider uptake of these systems, and an increased utilisation of the data they provide, especially in areas such as IAQ.”

James Hallworth’s insight for 2022 first appeared in PlaceTech.

On refurbishment and Net Zero:

Hedley Jones, Partner, Refurbishment and Development

“There has been a groundswell of support behind driving ESG performance over the past year or so, with clients now truly engaged in the conversation, backed by investor sentiment. For 2022, consultants, advisors, contractors – the entire supply chain – need to get behind this to deliver the transformational change required through practical and meaningful action.

 Stakeholders need to be more ambitious from the outset, accepting there is a commercial balance required, however we can go further than simply ticking the boxes of statutory or certification scheme standards.

 The property sector urgently needs a better understanding of what Net Zero means in practice, particularly for existing stock, focusing on driving down energy demand and increasing onsite renewables. Energy modelling and whole-life carbon need to be used as the tools to deliver this for refurbishment and development projects to drive performance through all stages of the project delivery, including importantly at the project brief stage.

 2022 must also be the year to break the barrier between landlord and tenant data. It is imperative that the industry works hand-in-hand, because the only way to hit true Net Zero will be whole-building data and performance. There has been enough talk about collaboration – now let’s collaborate!”

On ESG: 

Vicky Cotton, ESG Director

“ESG has risen sharply up the agenda in 2021, to the point where our clients now attach almost equal importance to their ESG achievements as their returns. There is a much greater understanding of the need to move this agenda forward; from setting strategies and agendas to real, tangible action in 2022.

In the wake of COP26, those that are taking ESG seriously are asking Workman’s ESG experts to scrutinise their approaches to weed out elements of greenwashing. We are therefore already seeing a change in direction from “blah blah blah” to real action.

As occupiers and their employees return to the workplace, health and wellbeing and occupier engagement remain crucial. Creating spaces people want to spend time in is key, and will continue to play a big role in how we refurbish space.

My biggest wish for 2022 is that it’s a year of literally greening real estate. We have a huge opportunity and responsibility to expand biodiversity throughout urban spaces – an opportunity that creates community space, natural habitats, improves air quality and absorbs carbon. There is literally no downside to this very simple solution.”

On the future of the workplace:

Gavin Halliday, Partner, Welcome Offices

“In the new hybrid working world, building owners and occupiers want flexibility. Not only from their working week, but also from the property they own or inhabit. We regularly advise on innovative uses for vacant space in buildings that improve occupier amenity. Some landlords are looking at the quid pro quo of allocating half a floor of lettable space to a gym facility, for example, in order to make the rest of the building more attractive to potential occupiers.

And it’s understanding what flexibility means to each property – and its occupiers – that will become more critical than ever for property management in 2022. As well as providing routine occupier surveys, we are undertaking an increasing volume of qualitative research – really listening to occupiers and their employees to understand what they want from their workplace; and presenting those ideas to the property owner.

This approach allows us to identify occupiers’ priorities, and reinvigorate their workplaces accordingly, whether that’s through the provision of improved indoor air quality, high-end cycling facilities, or frictionless entry.

Listening more closely than ever to occupiers, and responding to their individual needs, will be the key to successful property management in 2022 and beyond.”

On Retail and Leisure:

Nick Hilton, Partner, Retail & Leisure, Activate

“Retail bounced back strongly from Covid, and (new variants notwithstanding) I would expect that to continue into 2022. Consumers have been out and about again, spending any cash they’ve been able to save. This year, the Christmas month has been extended to a festive quarter, with shopping starting earlier than usual.

Data is queen and king: it will remain powerful into 2022 and beyond. We’ve seen a rising number of turnover leases, so we are analysing increasing amounts of turnover information. Real estate owners are gaining ever-greater insight into how their occupiers are trading, and have more tangible information at their fingertips than ever before. From turnover information to customer counting and engagement statistics, we are collating this information and presenting it in ways that allow clients to make informed decisions. 

Further into 2022, we are likely to see a renewed focus on measuring data around energy consumption in retail spaces, to create a base position from which to build towards ESG targets. Building owners are keen to create social value and community focus, along with a strong emphasis on incorporating biodiversity across their portfolios.”

Nick Hilton’s insight for 2022 first appeared in Retail Destination.

On Placemaking and High Street Regeneration:

Esther Worboys, Placemaking Manager, Activate

“The social side of town centres and high streets, rather than simply transactional retail, will be the key to success in 2022 and beyond. What we have missed is community and interaction, whether that is more food and beverage, leisure, or markets, the kind of engagement that people can’t get online will be a real opportunity. It’s almost like we need to regain the purpose and social cohesion delivered by market squares of a thousand years ago.

When the time is right for people to return to the workplace, placemaking will provide that sense of community here too and the chance to network again, whether via a yoga class or around a coffee cart. Placemaking has a huge role to play in curating and providing those experiences, from finding out what occupiers want from their workplace to working with landlords to find a way to deliver it.”