Four Key Themes from the CoreNet Global 2016 North American Summit

Lessons learned from the CRE community, Rocky, and Ben Franklin.

The author poses with “Rocky” and “Ben Franklin”.

Each year, CoreNet Global’s North American Summit brings together the best minds in the corporate real estate world to share experiences and learn from one another. Held October 16-19 at the Philadelphia Convention Center, this year’s theme was “The Bigger Picture: Geopolitics, Economics and the Environment.” Opening and closing with inspirational speakers and filled in with extensive sessions on a broad array of topics and myriad networking opportunities, the conference is a favorite among end users and service providers alike.

While each session was organized to respond to the theme of geopolitical events, a global economy, sustainability, and technological advances, a number of additional themes revealed themselves throughout the conference.

Image courtesy of the author.
  1. Authenticity is everything
    The conference kicked off with two keynote speakers who focused on the individual: Global citizen Chris Bashinelli reminded us that in order to make global changes, we have to start small, doing small things we love, and doing our daily best to serve others. Robert Fogarty of the Dear World then gave an inspirational look at his photography, reminding us that we are all people, and that all people have value and stories that make us unique. With tears in our eyes, attendees moved on to the conference where the theme was echoed by presenter after presenter: make the workplace real, unique, and about the humans that occupy it. In her presentation with Gensler’s Gervais Tompkin, “Well-Being, Science and Design,” Cristina Banks of UC Berkeley reminded us that our needs are always nested in different contexts, but that our own basic human needs are always the same, and the built environment provides the organizational support to meet those needs.
  2. Health, well-being, and human factors are the new productivity
    Let’s face it, workers are sick and tired of being sick and tired! Presentation after presentation focused on the importance of human health and well-being and how ensuring employees are happy and healthy is the first step in enhancing productivity.Banks and Tompkin were the first to address this, but certainly not the last: In “Defining the Impact of the Built Environment on Human Health” by Perkins + Will’s Rachel Casanova and Eve Edelstein, “Time to Move! Applying the Principles of Active Design” by Michelle Kelly (Architectural Solutions), Gregory Plavcan (Gensler), Alex Spilger (Cushman & Wakefield), and Sarah Welton (International WELL Building Institute), and “Measuring Health, Engagement, Productivity, Culture and the Built Environment” by Leigh Stringer (EYP) and Harvard’s Eileen McNeely and Piers MacNaughton, we were reminded again and again that well-being is more than just physical health. The built environment can and should be designed to support this, and programs and policies should be built to support the principles of wellness.
  1. Stop planning for activities and start planning for experience
    Activity-based work has been the rage for years; but the influences of hospitality and residential are pushing away from planning to support activities and towards creating comfortable, curated experiences. Imagine stepping into the office and not having to worry about a thing because the building, staff, and systems are tailored to meet your every need.CBRE’s Julie Whelan discussed CBRE’s Global Occupier Survey in her presentation “The Occupiers Have Spoken” – part of this focused on what Millennials want in the workplace and how corporate occupiers are trying to meet this by looking at the merits of shared workplaces, which provide strong design, as well as amenities. Shawna Doerkson and Kylie Roth presented Knoll’s longitudinal study in “Builiding the Future of Work in the Information Age”, focusing on the need for the experience-based economy to creep into the office.
  1. If you can measure it, you should
    Nearly every presentation featured metric after metric and measure after measure: JLL’s Maureen Ehrenberg provided metrics for measuring productivity and utilization in her presentation on the frictionless economy. Her presentation focused on the critical nature of technology, which enables end-to-end data collection and results in new economic models.
Image courtesy of the author.

Allsteel’s Jan Johnson and Andrew Mawson from Advanced Workplace Associates also discussed the holy grail of workplace: measuring productivity, providing six key factors with the highest correlation (social cohesion, perceived supervisory support, information sharing, goal clarity, external outreach, and trust). Stringer, McNeely and MacNaughton also addressed measuring health, engagement, and culture, bringing together workplace and public health.

And let’s not forget measuring space: Peter Stevenson of Stevenson Systems gave a great presentation on the new IPMS property measurement system, which helps standardize space measurement systems around the world.

My favorite takeaway, however, was from Casey, the AV guy at the CallisonRTKL-sponsored Workplace Learning Theater: “You guys are all great to work with: everyone at this conference is kind, respectful, and fun.” What could be better to hear in the City of Brotherly Love?!

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