Real Estate Usability – Why and How Buildings must Adapt to Their Users

Peter Tzeschlock

Statement from Peter Tzeschlock, Chairman of the Executive Board of Drees & Sommer SE

Buildings today have many functions. In order to ensure profitability, investors and portfolio holders must respond to megatrends such as digitization, demographic changes and urbanization. Added to this are the growing expectations of users, who increasingly care about living or working in a building where they feel comfortable. This means that, for the potential of buildings to be fully exploited, there has to be a change of perspective. In future, users will no longer look for the building that suits them. Instead, buildings will adapt to their users.

The fact that a building is supposed to provide, for instance, office space, says little about its optimum layout. It does not answer the question as to what environment is consistent with the needs of a specific company, and especially of its employees. The important thing is the actual needs of the users. Focusing on users’ needs can inspire and aid corporate change. But this goes beyond mere functionality. Through design, companies can also address the emotions and perceptions of their employees, thus triggering new processes.

It is therefore crucial to understand the requirements of the people who will be using a building. But this applies not only to future working environments. Hotels and retail buildings also require individual needs assessments if they are to survive in times of growing competition. For instance, in the hotel business, long-stay and serviced apartments with architectural design concepts and facilities tailored precisely to the target group are proving popular. In retail properties, it is now standard practice to analyze the behavior of users, including their route choices, before deciding what modifications are necessary. Successful concepts – be they pop-up stores, hotels offering medical care, or coworking spaces – have one thing in common. They are in tune with the times. They focus on the users of a building and all their needs and demands. Thus they achieve a balance between people’s needs, the space, the architecture and technology – and remain viable even in turbulent times.