Innovation is changing our homes, our offices and retail projects.
People want to be able to do things easier, faster and cheaper, so developers are incorporating features that give them what they want into the projects they build, said Andrew Wright, CEO and managing partner, Franklin Street, during a Tampa Bay Business Journal panel discussion on the future of construction and development.
“Convenience and cool is the other part of it. We want things to be hip and urban and dynamic and if you aren’t able to do that you’ll get washed away in the tides,” Wright said.
Highwoods Properties is incorporating amenities in its projects such as wellness and fitness centers and collaborative common areas in offices, said Dan Woodward, vice president, Tampa division. Metro Development Group LLC is partnering with Bright House Networks to develop very fast wireless service in its master-planned communities, allowing more people to work from home, said John Ryan, CEO.
“This is our time to make real estate really cool,” said Santosh Govindaraju, portfolio manager, Convergent Capital Partners LLC, which developed Aloft Tampa. The new hotel invested in innovative technology to lower operating costs as well as improve the guest experience. For instance, starting Jan. 1, guests will be able to use their iPhones to check in, eliminating the need for a room key.
iPads have change the way business is done at ABI Companies Inc. “It’s taken the structure from a huge paper-intensive process to a paperless process,” said Hank Booth, ABI’s CEO and president.
DPR Construction Inc., which has an innovation team, uses drones to photograph its projects, said Page McKee, regional manager.
Younger workers are driving some of the innovation at construction firms, but leaders admit that a future labor pool is among their top concerns.
“The quality of the craft here in Tampa is quite good,” said Gayle Grady, district manager, PCL Civil Constructors Inc. “What concerns me is the number of qualified craft available.”
Many construction workers left Florida or left the business entirely during the economic downturn, Eric Keen, vice chairman of HDR Engineering Inc. said. While some are starting to come back, there’s still a huge gap between more senior workers and the younger ones just getting into the industry, with little or no middle layer of talent.
“You can’t replace it quickly. It takes years and it has an impact on your ability to be competitive in the marketplace,” Keen said.