deliveries or curbside pickup drove most of his retail and restau-
rant tenants’ sales.
“Right now, we’re trying to retrofit existing parking lots,”
Schneider says. “You can designate parking spots or build curb
cutouts where consumers can pull in and get immediate access to
the retailer or restaurant. With restaurants, we have already allo-
cated a certain number of parking spots to curbside pickup.”
With the increasing adoption of parking apps, where customers
can reserve a parking spot as they arrive, Bayer is also looking at
numbering these pickup spots.
CLEANING THE AIR
Worrying about air quality is nothing new to AMLI Residential. Thecompany has a long track record of building LEED Certified buildings with MERV filters.
Now that COVID has put a focus on air quality in commercialbuildings, other CRE developers and owners could soon adoptthose practices. Froman says air quality will be a massive consideration in Lincoln’s office portfolio.
“The operating procedures for filtering your return air, outdoorair intake and exhaust air on each floor are all being re-evaluated,”he says.
But there are some potential hang-ups. Froman worries MERV
13 or higher filters could hinder a building operator’s ability to
cool and remove humidity out of the building appropriately
because they lower the air changes per hour on these floors.
“While we want to have some of this technology and put in these
filter systems, we cannot negatively affect the building’s design,”
Froman says. “That could cause other problems, like tenant dis-
comfort, mold, and excessive humidity and other issues like that.
We’re walking a fine line of how much do you want to implement
to be cautious and protect against COVID or similar health-related
COVID is also shining a spotlight on HVAC systems and precisely
where they spread air. In many buildings, the air moves from one
room to another, which can increase the risk of transferring air-
borne infections, according to Cynthia Curtis, senior vice president
of sustainability at JLL. She advocates improvements to existing
ventilation systems in a recent article on the company’s site.
In its office and residential portfolio, Bayer is thinking about the
same things. The company is studying HVAC systems that can cre-
ate better air circulation and filtration systems to eliminate bacteria
or smaller microscopic particles. “That’s something we will look at
on recent developments,” Schneider says.
Ultraviolet technologies that can kill viruses in the circulating air
are also gaining a lot of momentum. In some buildings, ultraviolet
UV-C light technology is placed inside light fixtures or within
These are the kinds of technologies that Bayer is considering.
“There is a light product that will disinfect,” Schneider says. “Anemployee can’t sit under it while it’s on. However, at night when noone’s present, this light product can be very effective at eliminatinga virus and bacteria.”
The science behind COVID is developing. Early on, there was ahyper-focus on how to limit the spread of the virus via surfaces.
While recent research has shown that the virus is transmittedthrough the air, many CRE executives are focused on how to limitcontact with high touch surfaces, like elevator buttons and doorhandles, in their buildings.
“We’ve certainly been exploring different types of keyless entry
systems,” AMLI’s Banks says. “In some of our renovations, we have
technology where you can unlock doors from your cell phone.
But then you still have to pull or push on the door to open it. So
one of the things we’re exploring is if we can get a no-touch
Wood is also looking at separating elevator corridors and adopt-
ing buttonless elevators, which Hallsey says will be an “incremental
cost” in new development. “It’s changing how we’re underwriting,”
Touchless technology is nothing new in class A office build-
ings. But Fink expects it to expand. He sees elevators that
apps can control on the horizon. And, he expects more
touchless adoption in older buildings, though he says there
hasn’t yet been a financial “trigger” where tenants are
“Tenants are asking what we’ve done for COVID, but they’re not
pushing us to do new things,” Fink says. “They’re documenting
what we have in place.”
TOO FAR, TOO FAST?
While existing tenants may not be pushing landlords to donew things, CRE companies are implementing new technologies to court new tenants. Firms across multiple sectors haveadopted virtual leasing technology, which allows prospects totour spaces without risking in-person interactions with leasingstaffers.
“Everybody implemented virtual leasing and a lot more onlinecapabilities to capture new customers rather than rely on [in-per-son] tours,” says William Spransy, CFO of Chapel Hill, NC-basedapartment owner Eller Capital Partners.
While the industry has adjusted on the fly to meet the demandsimposed by COVID, many are looking into their crystal ball to figure out what new safety technology could be on the horizon. Asthey do this, they’re looking to Asia, which is more accustomed todealing with airborne diseases than the US.
For instance, when people enter many buildings outside of theUS, they walk past a thermal camera that measures their temperature. While that may never be widely adopted in the US., the systemhas been installed in one of Lincoln’s managed properties inNorcross, GA.
“There is a main entrance where employees come in, and a
temperature scanner has been installed there,” Froman says.
Schneider is intrigued by other technologies, such as a Japanese
system that sprays a fine mist on children as they walk into the
school. But he thinks there might be a limit to what Americans
As the debate over masks has proven, Americans aren’t always as
accepting of protective measures—whether they’re high tech or
low tech—as citizens of other countries, especially when they see
them as intrusive.
“It would be interesting to see whether the US customer will be
as accepting of this approach,” Schneider says. ◆