We’ve recently completed the draft of an upcoming research paper that looks at some of the emerging trends that may shape the future landscape of office markets around the region. One of the themes addressed in the paper was the way in which technology could impact how office space is used in the future and its implications for the development of the market going forward.
Today’s power-hungry office is heavily reliant on computers and requires extensive cabling to provide both electricity and data to each workstation. In modern office buildings, cabling is typically provided under floor through the use of an elevated structural floor that sit above the concrete slab, more commonly referred to as a raised floor. Older buildings that do not have raised floors generally require under floor trunking-channels gouged into the concrete slab-or conduits that feed cabling down from the ceiling.
Offices with raised floors therefore not only have the advantage of being more aesthetically pleasing but also allow for greater flexibility in configuring and altering floor plan layouts. As a result, they are generally preferred by tenants. However, raised floor systems are expensive and are not always feasible in older buildings. Though advancements in cabling technology has seen the height of raised floor systems lowered to as little as 50mm, some older buildings simply do not have sufficient headroom to accommodate such systems.
The advent of wireless power technology has the potential to change all this. Wireless power, along with ubiquitous Wi-Fi, could eliminate the need for raised floors and increase the flexibility of workplace configurations. Moreover, wireless power could also have an impact on building life cycles. For example, the ability to create modern office spaces through refurbishment rather than redevelopment would enable investors to re-evaluate investment opportunities in the market. Likewise, in areas where development potential is limited by height restrictions, the absence of raised floors could potentially lead to the addition of extra floors and more usable floor space where an older building is torn down for redevelopment.
While wireless power technology is still in its infancy, it is not hard to see how the technology could progress to a stage where it is practical and commercially viable in the not too distant future. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we could only connect to the Internet through a data cable.
Denis Ma is the Local Director for Jones Lang LaSalle in Greater Pearl River Delta, based in Hong Kong.