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3 Big Shifts Coming in How the Marketplaces Industry Works in 2024 and Beyond

January 9, 2024

Jobs in the Marketplaces Industry always evolve, but the pace of change stands to accelerate due to trends like climate change, the emergence of artificial intelligence and the pressure to squeeze more productivity out of existing real estate portfolios. As 2023 drew to a close, Commerce + Communities Today asked experts about these shifts and requested predictions about where jobs could be headed.

First: AI will be a game changer across disciplines, and so, C+CT published What AI Can Do for Real Estate Pros and What It Can’t earlier this week. But two more paradigm shifts are in the works, as well:

Real Estate Will Switch from Cost Center to Value Driver

Malls are transforming themselves to take advantage of their prime locations. And many, including The Wall Street Journal, have reported that Arkhouse Management and Brigade Capital Management’s $5.8 billion bid for Macy’s Inc. is an acknowledgement of the value of the retailer’s real estate.

Over the past few years, many clients of strategy consultant Rachel Elias Wein’s “have become more attuned to the varieties of value and value creation that can be generated by their real estate,” the WeinPlus CEO said.

These national retailers, grocers, drugstore chains and other operators are moving away from a disproportionate focus on driving down occupancy costs, she explained. “Real estate used to be treated almost exclusively as a cost center. Now more companies are seeing that their leased real estate can generate value, too. They’re going to continue to grow that capacity, both internally and externally, as a response to the greater complexities and pressures of today’s marketplace.”

That could mean bolstering productivity, not just by renegotiating rents or closing underperforming stores but also by forging new strategic partnerships and allocating capital differently, Wein said. Factors like demographic shifts, labor costs, in-migration patterns, tech evolution and the needs of the retailer’s fulfilment network will loom larger in real estate decisions, the consultant predicts. “More sophisticated strategies will require new internal and external skill sets and resources,” Wein said, “but the entire industry will benefit if more operators are better able to understand and capture the value of their real estate.”

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS FROM ICSC: Where the Halo Shines: How Physical Stores Drive Online Sales

Sustainability Will Become Earlier and Larger Part of Building Design, Thanks to New Metrics and Technology

In their work on behalf of retail and mixed-use clients, many architecture and design firms are sharpening their focus on greenhouse gas emissions, according to MG2 principal Mark Taylor. As leader of the firm’s sustainability practice, the architect said strategies for quantifying and reducing embodied carbon are taking center stage at both industry conferences and in brainstorming sessions with clients. A blog post by clean energy nonprofit RMI defines embodied carbon as “the millions of tons of carbon emissions released during the lifecycle of building materials, including extraction, manufacturing, transport, construction, and disposal.”

Taylor said this focus on reducing carbon “is just going to continue to increase, and architects are going to get more sophisticated about sustainability and building performance. It’s all leading to that bottom line of net zero carbon emissions.”

Historically, he noted, private developers have been less likely than government clients to ask about a project’s global warming potential, or GWP. But “it’s really making its way into more developer-led retail and mixed-use types of projects now,” he said.

The demands of investors and municipalities, along with clients’ own ESG goals, are part of what’s driving the trend. Taylor cited MG2’s work on behalf of a big-box retailer seeking to open a new store in a carbon-focused jurisdiction in California. “The jurisdiction was demanding a net zero energy building,” he said. “Through our building performance tools and the use of solar on the roof, we were able to help [the retailer] get the approvals they needed to advance that project.”

Taylor said architects will spend more of their time mastering tech tools for designing and testing high-performance buildings. They also will huddle earlier with sustainability consultants, building performance analysts and structural and mechanical engineers. “We’ve hired a full-time, senior building performance analyst on staff who is helping us, in those early stages of the design process, better understand how that building is going to perform,” Taylor said. “To make really meaningful progress on lower-carbon buildings, we need to be thinking holistically.”

Architectural drawings and plans will continue to be important end products, Taylor added, but demand for expertise in digital building information modeling, or BIM, will grow as well, due in part to the shift to high-performance buildings. MG2, for one, already uses data from these models to crunch the carbon numbers on retail and mixed-use projects. These models must be properly labeled, with exactly the right quantities and types of materials to be used, to reach the client’s sustainability goal.

New tech tools also allow architects and designers to help their clients figure out which building techniques and materials have the lowest GWP, Taylor said. On one recent project, MG2 analyzed two types of concrete masonry unit walls — one with structural blocks, the other with veneer — to figure out their relative carbon impacts. Building performance software proved veneer was better, Taylor said, because it meant using less concrete.

“Those are the kind of things that, as architects and designers, clients are starting to ask us to do,” he noted. “I tell younger professionals that their task is going to be learning how to use data-rich [modeling] environments to produce more holistic pictures of building design and performance.”

By Joel Groover

Contributor, Commerce + Communities Today


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