From left: Travis Barrington, Julio Davila, Lindsay Baker, James Malone and Steve Marcussen discuss technology and its impact on high-rises at the DisruptCRE Los Angeles Conference. Image: Cushman & Wakefield

Technology has already changed most industries but some observers believe that the commercial real estate sector has not kept up. A recent proliferation of CRE related tech companies – along with a willingness by real estate executives to explore new digital tools – may be starting to change that.

The intersection of real estate and technology was the topic of a conference last week called DisruptCRE Los Angeles. DisruptCRE’s producers have also held events in Boston, Chicago and New York, bringing together CRE tech companies and real estate executives for panel style discussions. The event, which took place on the 71st floor of US Bank Tower, covered real estate data and analytics, the evolving workplace, and the hot topic of real estate crowdfunding.

One of the highlights of the day was a panel discussion titled: “High-Tech: How Skyscrapers are Embracing Cutting Edge Technology.” The panel, moderated by Travis Barrington, Founder and CEO of High Rise Facilities, addressed how technology is impacting high-rise owners, manager and brokers in Downtown Los Angeles. Panelists included Steve Marcussen, executive director at Cushman & Wakefield; Julio Davila, executive vice president and chief investment officer for OUE Limited, the Americas; Lindsay Baker, vice president of business development for Building Robotics; and James Malone, vice president of leasing for Brookfield Properties.

Davila talked about OUE’s extensive recent technology investments at US Bank Tower. One of the things OUE will soon offer is a mobile app that is intended to help simplify communication and requests between office tenants and building management. In addition, Davila said that OUE is in the midst of a major lobby renovation that will feature incredibly high-definition LED wall displays. Other major renovations include the addition of a new restaurant on the 71st floor, a public observation deck and digital in-cab elevator signage.

Marcussen discussed the new Wilshire Grand, an under construction, mixed-use high-rise that will eventually rise even higher than US Bank Tower. Marcussen is tasked with leasing the office and retail space, and he was asked what technologies are being incorporated that differentiate it from other Downtown high-rises. “Wilshire Grand will dramatically change the Downtown LA skyline and the center of Downtown. It will have the newest technology for everything,” Marcussen said. “Some examples include an HVAC system served by an underground thermal storage system, and it will also have double-deck elevators. The building is designed to be the workplace of the future.”

Panelists were also asked about the types of tenants that are attracted to high-rise office spaces. Marcussen said he’s seeing creative tenants and a lot of small businesses flock to the area, with the increasing amenities available being a big draw.

Malone added that Brookfield, which owns and operates seven prominent Downtown high-rises, has launched DesignHive, a spec suite program that is meant to serve as an experiential idea generator for tenants exploring progressive workplace options. Six architectural firms are involved in the creation of this “next generation of work spaces” that Malone said is highly sought after by TAMI tenants — tech, advertising, media and information.

As the only panel participant from the vendor side, Baker said that in her experience, many high-rise buildings are actually slow to adopt new technology. “Downtown Los Angeles’ Aon Center is one of our clients but there is a huge opportunity for more high-rise office buildings to embrace technology,” Baker said. “Enormous potential already exists in the many sensors already in place in existing buildings. If high-rise owners are to be successful, they need to use this unmet potential to improve the tenant experience.”

Recommended links: Cushman & Wakefield and DisruptCRE