Most commercial properties are going at half throttle today. We keep them running, optimising their operation and preparing them for the restart. Find out what we have been going through and what is waiting for us.
Life in our country almost ground to a halt within a single week in March. Streets that were busy once are empty, and shopping centres that pulsated with activity now sell only food, chemist’s goods and medicines. Most companies that operate in office buildings have ordered their employees to work from home. The demand for short-term flexible leases of storage space is huge with logistics and e-commerce companies seeking to cater to the unexpected growth in demand.
We manage more than 80 commercial real properties across the Czech Republic. A half of the total of 1.1 million square metres under our management is attributable to shopping centres. Our portfolio also includes office buildings, logistic centres and retail parks.
While we are making sure that industrial buildings operate at full rate, we have switched to a temporary maintenance mode with the other types of commercial properties. What did we do and what can we expect?
Turn equipment and lights off and secure everything
The majority of space in shopping centres and office buildings is currently unused, so what we are doing is to try and find a compromise between providing a pleasant environment for the reduced number of visitors and maintaining a safe ‘sleep’ mode in the entire building. Our initial steps included limiting people’s movement in the building, for example by directing everyone to use a single lift. We also check lighting in unused interiors and, wherever possible, use point sources in an energy-saving mode throughout the day. Of course, we ventilate and heat the unused parts of the buildings, but we have set the recuperation and internal recirculation processes as low as their operating minimum having consulted experts (REHVA – Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations). This particular measure is not only a cost-saving one – it is also a health precaution (to prevent the propagation of bacteria and viruses). Securing the properties is also a must; we provide both physical guarding and remote supervision from a control centre. Modern building management systems allow for monitoring buildings remotely in a 24/7 mode. In many cases, we are carrying out various repairs in shopping centres and speeding up or completing refurbishment work that, under normal circumstances, could only be done within restricted time slots or on public holidays when shopping centres are closed.
Operation fine-tuned to the minutest detail
This year will be in the sign of maximum operational efficiency as far as property management is concerned. We seek savings in building operation to retain user comfort for tenants while ensuring that customers can shop safely and conveniently.
This applies primarily to facility services such as security guards, cleaning, maintenance, waste collection, etc. where we can work with service frequency through staffing measures or provide the services on demand (ad hoc – as needed). The optimisation of such services involves a great deal of alchemy in each individual shopping centre. Another major opportunity for savings is the building’s operational energy demand. This involves a wide range of measures depending on the technical condition of the building and on how advanced (i.e., energy saving) technologies are installed. Again, we will monitor the utilisation of the individual sectors and seek savings in times of low usage. At this point, we are working on a basic analysis of the operation of the various process equipment and the options for optimisation. A dialogue with our service partners and their expert personnel is crucial for us in this regard.
We also review the annual budgets with every client and update them based on the aforementioned viewpoints.
Restart and return to normal operation
The re-opening will obviously involve a gradual start-up of all building equipment depending on the government restrictions being lifted over time. We are aware that the restrictions will affect our food court units and specialised operations including multiplex cinemas and wellness/fitness facilities until the very last moment. Marketing activities will play a key role in returning to normal operation with a focus on bringing visitors back to shopping centres. From an operational point of view, it is our duty to ensure that the environment is as safe as possible in order to rule out concerns regarding the potential infection. Shopping centres will continue applying many of such sanitary precautions.
I am convinced that if the immediate epidemiological hazard subsides and the most stringent measures (restricting the movement of people and closing shops) are lifted or at least loosened before the beginning of the summer, the restart of commercial properties (in particular shopping centres) will be relatively quick. This is what I wish for us all.
Eduard Markovič, Head of Technical Asset Services
Cushman & Wakefield