Every four years around election time, likely voters are polled on which issues are most important to them, then this data is used by a variety of political players — campaigns, news outlets, advocacy groups – to better understand how and why our country votes the way it will. In 2012, less voters named Terrorism and National Security as a very important issue than Healthcare, the Budget Deficit, and Unemployment[1]. In 2016, Terrorism was second only to the Economy[2]. Depending on how diligently you follow national politics, this shift in public opinion is probably no surprise, but what may not be receiving appropriate attention, is how Commercial Real Estate is adapting to these heightened concerns. Consider that 40% of U.S. workers are now Professionals/Managers most likely working in offices[3], we should be more aware of how those managing our workspaces are adjusting, innovating, and most importantly promoting safety and security.

Probably the most important, and certainly most immediate, security concern facing CRE today is the issue of physical security. The threat of violence is not only a worry to tenants, but may also pose liability concerns for building owners and managers. Due in part to a ruling where the Port Authority was found negligent in protecting the World Trade Center prior to the 1993 terror attack, a company can be held responsible by court if they fail to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable actions to be prepared for a terrorist attack[4]. With security concerns again rampant, buildings are going farther than ever with preemptive action plans. This transition was well summed by Forbes’ writer Larry Alton, who wrote, “In the past, safety cultures were defined by a general grasp of where a company stood on key issues such as health, crime, natural disasters, and cyber attack. The difference with today’s leading safety cultures is that organizations are actually developing tangible plans to deal with emergencies.”[5] This means developing internal escalation procedures, floor-by-floor action plans, and fail-safe communication strategies. It also means identifying building specific vulnerabilities, for instance: an office with space dedicated to hosting private or non-tenant conferences must be prepared for influxes of non-tenant visitors that have not been vetted and do not have access cards. Or perhaps your building leases to a shared workspace agency, such as WeWork[6], in   which case it must be ensured that these spaces follow internal protocol in alignment with the remainder of the building.

Luckily, Real Estate is consistently brimming with innovation, and there are numerous examples of this emerging in the world of CRE security. The concepts can range from deeply complex to surprisingly simple. In the agency realm, virtual reality is being used to deliver property showings off-site, providing a safer alternative for agents growing concerned of more frequent targeted attacks[7]. If communication is your concern, consider Captivate’s new Tenant Alert System. Already available to those office buildings that take advantage of Captivate Content, the Tenant Alert System posts messages instantaneously to your media screens in a single building, or across a portfolio. Probably the most exciting breakthroughs in CRE Security are being led by a single emerging field that is simultaneously shaking up a variety of industries: IOT. The Internet of Things – or IOT – is the technical term for what we refer to as a “smart” device, and with its rapidly expanding presence in the market[8], it won’t be long until IOT is more common than not in Class A Commercial Real Estate. Currenting making waves in sustainability and environmental control, IOT safety & security applications are already being utilized in access control, intrusion detection, video surveillance, and air quality testing. By streamlining these vastly different systems and concerns into a single solution, and allowing the solution to be mobile, Real Estate security has never been more comprehensive than it can be today. And while tech innovation is making the lives of many Real Estate Managers and tenants easy, it also poses a new threat: cyber security.

When you consider the wider industry of CRE, it isn’t hard to see why the industry may be a target for cyber-attacks.  Real Estate specific information systems often contain high volumes of personal information on tenants, while some may manage financial transaction information, another likely target. On a smaller scale, a hack on building management systems could disrupt safety, HVAC, and elevator systems in a single property[9]. There are several steps Real Estate companies should be taking to ensure protection from these type of attacks, beginning with determining your level of vulnerability.  It is common to now hire employees or third-party firms designated to cyber security, with some firms implementing their own systems. As with any security concern, internal protocol is key, and with the use of SaaS companies growing in Real Estate, it is important these vendors are compliant as well. In the long run, a little bit of investment in cyber protection could save you from a world of liability in the future.

As tenants, it is important to hold our office managers accountable for proper safety proposal. As employees within the Real Estate Industry, we should not view Safety and Security as just an unfortunate increased to the budget, but as another area in which to differentiate. Real Estate has always been subject to public opinion, and it is up to our firms whether it leads to loss, or a profit. As the security playing field adapts, keep your eye out for innovation on the horizon, and as always: be ready for what’s next.

[1] http://www.gallup.com/poll/153029/economy-paramount-issue-voters.aspx

[2] http://www.people-press.org/2016/07/07/4-top-voting-issues-in-2016-election/

[3] http://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/blue-and-white-collar-workers/?currentTimeframe=0&selectedDistributions=professionals-managers&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

[4] https://www.bens.org/document.doc?id=10 – executive summary

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryalton/2016/10/18/5-trends-causing-employers-to-increase-focus-on-office-safety-and-security/#53e739654ddf

[6] https://www.wework.com/

[7] https://guardllama.com/the-concerning-rise-of-real-estate-agent-attacks/

[8] http://www.happiestminds.com/infographics/6-Appilcations-of-IoT-for-Building-Automation-solutions-in-2016.pdf

[9] https://commercialobserver.com/2017/05/is-commercial-real-estate-prepared-for-a-cyberattack/