The use of technology to increase efficiency and sustainability is a “no-brainer” solution that enables property investors to boost returns while doing the right thing for society, says Su Lin Wee, who heads up asset management for Southeast Asia at PGIM Real Estate.
To kick off Mingtiandi’s Property Innovation Forum 2021, Wee joined Mingtiandi founder Michael Cole and Yardi regional director Bernie Devine on Tuesday for an MTD TV session focused on tech adoption in Asia, as part of the launch of the Innovation in Asian Real Estate: Systems for a Disrupted Industry report.
At the launch event for the report, which was jointly produced by Mingtiandi and Yardi, Wee, explained how paralleling the findings of the Innovation in Asian Real Estate report, PGIM is boosting use of technology in its real estate portfolio in the region in a drive to boost efficiency and improve sustainability.
The Innovation in Asian Real Estate report is available for download via the link above.
In one of the report’s key takeaways, 62 percent of survey respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major or significant impact on their workplace plans — a finding that didn’t surprise Devine.
“It’s very clear there’s been a seismic change in the workplace,” he said. “And a real attitude shift from ‘Well, I have to go to the office’ to ‘Is it worthwhile for me to go to the office? I can work from home, why should I go to the office?’ ”
Now that workers are embracing the home office — and landlords and corporate occupiers are seeking to lure them back — Yardi has sought to bridge the divide by introducing an app to manage employees away from the office and ease their eventual return. In the same vein, office leases are starting to take into account the importance of providing better services to tenants to sweeten the value proposition.
“It’s no longer a situation of get the lease signed, collect the rent, move on,” Devine said. “It’s really a case now of make sure you’re providing great services and a great experience. So there’s been a real change.”
Singapore-based Wee’s pre-PGIM career included directing the development of CapitaLand’s greenery-packed Westgate mall and office tower. With firsthand knowledge of how improvements in the built environment can add up to big efficiencies and help meet environmental, social and governance goals, Wee is drawing on that background for her work at PGIM.
“In Singapore alone, we are actively conducting two trials on two properties that we manage here,” she said. “Hopefully we’re able to compare notes and find out how we pool data from our buildings, understand it, fine-tune the chillers and the condensers, improve the lighting, improve the utility consumption, lower water wastage, and all that ties in very nicely with ESG as well. Building efficiency pilots and technology is something that I feel very passionately about.”
Another conviction she holds is that meeting sustainability standards isn’t just smart public relations or a box to tick for owners looking to show off the quality of their portfolios. PGIM has achieved Green Mark certification for almost all its managed assets in Singapore, and the savings in terms of utility usage and water consumption have amounted to “a very tangible ROI”.
“Which is why I personally really like tech when it comes to building efficiency, because it’s a very low hanging fruit,” Wee said. “It’s a big engine that you don’t really know much about, and imagine you can put an AI dashboard on top of it and it just gives you 200 things that you should fix and after which you can have a better performance building. It’s quite a no-brainer from our point of view.”
Logistics Innovation Next
The Property Innovation Forum continues next Tuesday with a panel on Tech Adoption in Logistics Real Estate. The speakers will discuss how warehouse operations are integrating with supply chains to meet the requirements of e-commerce operators and demand from consumers across Asia.
For the one-hour logistics session on MTD TV, Mingtiandi’s Michael Cole will welcome Hank Hsu, co-founder and CEO of Forest Logistics Properties; Alton Wong, head of valuation and advisory services and co-head of sustainability services for Greater China at Cushman & Wakefield; Gene King, head of Vietnam at Ally Logistic Property; and Bernie Devine, regional director for Asia Pacific at Yardi.
The innovation forum will conclude on 2 December with a spotlight interview session with Varun Malik, the head of real estate client coverage for Asia Pacific at market information provider MSCI.
During that wrap-up session, Malik will be sharing from his experiences working with property companies in Asia Pacific seeking to benchmark their performance against global standards, as well as providing insights on how the financialisation of real estate is spurring change in the industry.
Beatrice Laforga provided reporting for this story.