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Brookfield, Silverstein + Vornado on building for the future

Kicking off New York Real Estate Tech Week, tech and real estate professionals from around the world gathered at Propmodo’s event to listen to some of the biggest players in the US from Brookfield Property Partners, Silverstein Properties and Vornado on how the firms are building for the future.

New York City’s real estate market is unique, according to moderator Ryan Baxter of VC firm MetaProp, as the largest owner is the city itself. The annual budget is more than the next 19 US cities combined and there are windowless basements that cost more in rent than a prime property in Chicago.

Watch the video below for an off the stage chat with Christian Heimple, vice president of construction at Brookfield Property Partners, on the firm’s plan for a digital twin, modular construction and focuses for 2020.

New York’s headache

Carlos Valverde, vice president of real estate development at Silverstein Properties, said building in New York is “a headache” and “not for the faint of heart”, with regulations and codes changing between projects and having to relearn, as the firm tends to only get to build a new building every five to 6 years.

“Looking ahead to the future is always a challenge,” added Valverde. “Making decisions so far in advance, you have to be a magician.”

Christian Heimple, vice president of construction at Brookfield Property Partners, explained how three years of the development cycle is taken up just for planning. Talking to PlaceTech, Heimple said the strong regulatory agencies keeps construction in check but requires “jumping through hoops to get shovel to ground.”

Another major pain point for Heimple is logistics, getting materials to the site, getting access from adjacent roadways and not having laydown areas is difficult in New York.

Sophisticated tenant

 What are New York tenants requesting? Karen Oh, director of energy solutions at Vornado, has seen more demand for wellness within buildings, such as air quality and daylight.

For Brookfield, Heimple has seen focus on amenities and creating an all-round experience, and on the tech side, more requests for integrations into building systems.

Valverde believes the tenant is “so sophisticated with what they want” and credited the way in which the Google campus was created, encouraging the firm to think differently.

Crystal ball

Looking ahead to the future, Valverde is most excited about the potential of AI and Machine Learning. At the moment, he believes it’s “very hard to embrace” and going forward the industry will “need an open-source platform”, but he’s certain in his lifetime real estate will see AI-enabled design and more.

Creating a digital twin, a virtual representation of the physical property based on data, is on Heimple’s mind as it has the potential to transform not only the construction process but can also be used once the project is complete, in areas such as operation and facilities management.

Vornado is also looking to develop digital twins, with a focus on what needs to be done with energy models to prevent fines in the future.

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