Chinese playing catch-up to US property managers
By Al Barbarino
Rob Speyer is warning the real estate industry that complacency in global markets could lead to a loss of property management business to foreign competitors — as they get smarter by the day.
During his keynote address at REBNY’s ninth annual Commercial Management Leadership Breakfast last week (Thursday), the president and CEO of Tishman Speyer applauded the room full of industry professionals for setting the global standard, but warned that their foreign counterparts are learning quickly how to manage class A buildings at a high level.
“Make no mistake about it, it’s the people in this room that are setting those standards,” he said. “But we shouldn’t get too complacent because the world is watching and the world is learning, and in some parts of the world they’re learning very quickly.”
Ironically, it’s the process of American globalization and the actions of companies like Tishman Speyer that are in many cases responsible for this trend, as they build in foreign countries, employing native staff in their buildings.
Speyer spoke of his firm’s buildings in foreign markets such as India, Brazil and China. Particularly impressive is the progress the China, where Tishman Speyer has a “development pipeline” of 20 million square feet, and where the Chinese have made leaps in construction, design and property management, Speyer said.
He spoke of an office building Tishman Speyer recently built in Western China. The building “wasn’t just built in a wonderful way, it’s also being operated that way” — and by “100 percent Chinese nationals,” said Speyer, who recently visited the site.
“They were as well-trained and sharp and on-the-spot as any building staff we have anywhere in the globe,” he said. “As a developer and an owner, this made me feel immensely proud, but as an American it gave me a little anxiety because it said that some component where we have a strong competitive edge, they’re catching up.”
He urged property managers to treat their buildings as “laboratories,” to push beyond the advancements that have already been made, to “come up with the next generation of sustainable buildings” and the “next wave of technology.”
“We need to absolutely perfect ourselves as a service industry if we’re going to be making our mark like we are now,” he said.
Earlier in the address, Speyer touched on some of those prior milestones and achievements — and the degree to which Tishman Speyer has helped make them happen, by delivering top quality construction and management at home and abroad, and helping to lead the way in sustainable building.
Tishman Speyer built the first LEED certified and LEED Gold certified buildings in the Southern Hemisphere through their work in Brazil, where half of the office buildings lack central air conditioning, he said.
Just as constructing a top quality property is only the first step in managing it at the same high standard, building an energy efficient building is only the first step in maintaining its efficiency.
“It’s one thing to build to a fancy specification, it’s another thing to generally manage it and operate it over time,” he said.
Prior to Speyer’s keynote address, Michael Norton of Tishman Speyer presented REBNY awards to Gaston Silva of Vonado Realty Trust, the Edward A. Riguardi Commercial Management Executive of the Year; and Edward Fallon of Brookfield Properties, honored with the John M. Griffin Community Service Award.
The award for “Portfolio Manager” went to Brian McCann of Cushman & Wakefield; “On-Site Manager” to Patricia Revellese of SL Green; “Rising Star” to Maritza Mohr of Boston Properties; “Engineer” to Joseph Bruno of Cushman & Wakefield; “Security Professional” to Elizabeth Taylor of Boston Properties; and “Porter,” to Keith Garcia of Paramount Group.
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