When I walk downtown and look at the office tours, I wonder if the owners think of how to transform their renting spaces to follow the mega social and economical trends that are emerging. Do they ask themselves: Who will still want to work in offices like these today? Who will want to work in that kind of buildings tomorrow?
Doing an ABN (asset, boundary, narrative) analysis on this topic could be interesting. What are their assets? A few years ago, owning commercial buildings was an important asset, it was an excellent investment. But in a time like ours, things are changing. More people are working in cafés, parks, libraries or at home... Wi-Fi and new devices allow us to bring our office almost anywhere we wish. Why to go to work in an office, if it's boring or if you can meet your colleagues and pals in a garden, a museum or in a fab lab?
The other impact on office buildings is the invention of new materials that contribute to make buildings not only more sustainable and pleasant, but also healthier.
Many owners probably don't really care since they think that their big tours will always have tenants. Or they may think that it would cost too much money to renovate them in a way to make them attractive for the kind of life we want in the 21st Century. Do they limit themselves inside the boundaries of being classical landlords of commercial spaces as they always been?
What are the narratives of the owners of office buildings? Do they think they still have gold in their hands or are they open to see how they can reinvent what to do with these old style spaces?
If I were them, I would organize contests with schools of architecture, engineers, environmentalists, designers, gardeners, citizens to start a new narrative about office buildings. I will take some parts of my buildings to prototype new spaces and develop an ongoing conversation with the users. I would ask questions to the tenants or future potential tenants, I would make them dream and start to experiment some transformations to co-create new buildings more empathical. I will create spaces that contribute to help people to change for the better and the happier.
This strategy would be a way to prevent to fail to build the assets they need. If they don't react now, their valuable assets may loose their value. It may cost them to start this study in association with an interactive communication campaign, but if they do it creatively and rigorously, that may save their business and make them the innovators of tomorrow. If, on the contrary, they decide to act as they always did, new kids on the block will come and change the game anyway! It's a loose-loose situation. And once they wake up, it will be too late, their buildings will be obsolete and they will have to consider them as sunk costs.
Reinventing the buildings goes with reinventing the city which goes with reinventing ourselves. In this thought and creative processes, just remember that to be successful, the users have absolutely to be among the community of designers.