45 min read

🎧 #095: Antony Slumbers on what it means to own a smart building

“Just knowing about real estate in the real estate industry is now necessary but it's not sufficient, because fundamentally the industry is moving from being product-based to service-based."

—Anthony Slumbers

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Episode 95 is a conversation with Antony Slumbers, Co-Founder of Real Innovation Academy and Real Estate Innovation Thought Leader at antonyslumbers.com.


We started with his background founding one of the first occupant experience software companies back in 2001 and followed his illustrious career that eventually saw him coining the term, "space as a service." We unpacked what that phrase means in light of COVID, where sustainability and decarbonization fits, and finally, what a smart asset means in this context.

I loved this conversation because it puts technology in its place - we should be asking ‘technology for who? and for what?’. This answers it.

Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus podcast with Antony Slumbers.

  1. Real Innovation Academy (0:34)
  2. Antony's Website (0:36)
  3. MIPIM (7:56)
  4. Dror Poleg (11:32)
  5. Vicinitee (12:43)
  6. Broadgate (13:30)
  7. Darlene Pope on the history of smart buildings, the 3-30-300 rule, and where we're headed (35:16)
  8. Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI (1:04:20)
  9. Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope (1:06:21)

You can find Antony on LinkedIn.



  • Overall real estate trends for techy types (16:22)
  • The current sustainability trends in decarbonization and changes in the real estate industry (46:53)
  • Smart Assets defined (54:48)
  • Skillsets and mindsets we need for the transition from dumb assets to smart assets (57:00)
  • Carveouts (1:03:38)

Music credit: Dream Big by Audiobinger—licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Full transcript

Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!

James Dice: hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.

James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Anthony slumbers Co-Founder of Real Innovation Academy and Real Estate Innovation thought leader antonyslumbers.com. We started with his background founding one of the first occupant experience software companies back in 2001. And followed his illustrious career that eventually saw him coined the term space as a service. We unpacked what that phrase means in light of COVID, where sustainability and decarbonization fits. And [00:01:00] finally, what a smart asset means in this context. I love this conversation because it puts technology in its place.

We should be asking technology for who and technology for what this answers it. Without further ado, please enjoy the nexus podcast with Antony slumbers. Hello, Anthony. Welcome to the show. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. I'm glad we got this. Got this on the calendar.

Antony Slumbers: Thanks for coming. Uh, James, it's a pleasure. Likewise, I've been looking forward to it.

James Dice: Can you, uh, start by introducing yourself for us?

Antony Slumbers: Okay. The, the, the quick way of explaining it goes back some time is that currently I'm the co-founder of the real innovation academy, where we teach what we call the Futureproof real estate course.

Now this looks at the changing nature of demand across multiple asset classes and seeks to provide the thinking required to adapt and fly in a changing real estate goal. Previously, I have over are 20 plus years. Horrible to say [00:02:00] started five tech companies, specializing in software for property management, office, market analytics and business productivity.

And then very strangely before that I was a dealer in 19th century position, European art. also right. And I tweet a lot. And when not under COVID restrictions, I do a lot of speaking conferences and talk mainly about the future work and spaces of service, which is a term that I may on and may not have invented.

I'd like to think I have, but I, I know a certain person in America who thinks they came up with it, um, for the term I'm very much, very much associated. So, um, Mr. Spaces, a service, if you like. Yeah.

James Dice: Yeah. Mr. Space is a service. That's what we'll call this episode. That's a great, great episode title. See if we can start some beef with whoever that is in the us.

Yeah. Um, well, I wanna ask you, uh, I was doing a research on your background, so I I've been following your blog for a long time and. You always put as [00:03:00] the picture in your blog. One of these, you know, very, very old art pieces as the main picture. Um, and so first I want to know, like, can you just talk a little bit more about what that was like as an art dealer, but then number two, I wanna know are the pieces of art connected to the message that writing about and the blog post?

Antony Slumbers: Well, the intention is always to have some sort of, some sort of connection. Unfortunately, most, mostly I use Renaissance paintings and, uh, certain modern day topics that were, weren't very much part of the, uh, the calendar of commemorate. It's not always easy. The, the, the reason, the reason for that is actually, I, I do have this rather strange background.

Actually. My degree is in history and history of art and for maybe what was it nearly, nearly a decade after I graduated, I did actually work for a 19th [00:04:00] century Europe, uh, British European art dealer in, uh, in, in, in central central London, which, which was wonderful. But the, uh, you know, I'd love to do that.

And if I was, if I was filthy rich, as they say, I'd go back to doing that. The great thing to do with our, our dealing is have an awful lot of money to start with, um, have a very, have a very good eye and the you buy things and then you put them away for several years, and then you bring them out to gain.

That's the, that's the, that's the skill it's in buying. From from, from there, just, just to explain. So strangely enough, at the, at the time, um, a lot of dealers in, in my sort of area, um, also got involved with the property development in, in, in, in London, lot of resides, sort the high end residential, um, for developments.

And we ended up funding enough. One of the people I worked with in the gallery, [00:05:00] um, got, got involved with doing some development, uh, through one of the, the, um, our gallery clients, actually a bigger middle Eastern chap who essentially gave us loads of money to go and play with. And so we did. Um, and so from working as a dealer, I then got involved with developing residential property, um, which all went swimmingly well until, oh God, this was, this is really aging me here.

This was the crash of. 80 88 when, um, everyone who was a genius suddenly became an idiot when the market market market went. Um, and so actually then spent quite a few years trying to, um, resurrect a development that we had gone into the recession with trying to get ourselves out of it there. Um, the other, the other side.

And then what happened was in actually on my birthday in 1995, um, I went into what was then the first internet [00:06:00] cafe, cause you're too young for this, but there used to be places where you could go and connect to the internet. You literally went to a shop to use the internet. Um, and I went into the first one of those and I thought, wow, this is fantastic.

And this would be great for property cuz you know, there's lots of documents and lots of pictures and lots of people all over the place. I thought this would be great. So I actually thought, well, how, how the hell do you do this? And I've got a history of art degree. Um, so I looked into what you needed, what you needed to be able to do a website in those days.

And the entire HDML specification in, when I started was 34 sides of a four. That was it. That was everything you could do on the internet was on 34 sides of a, a four. And you could do very, very little, um, I thought, well even I could learn, learn that. And essentially I then spent the next, certainly the next 10 years, um, [00:07:00] learning, learning, coding as, as, as the web developed.

So it got muscle of progressively more complicated and it took about 10 years before I went, oh my God, I don't understand this at all. You do. You actually do need to be a, a computer science person to understand this. So, um, then I, then I moved in, moved into management. So, um, so I started what was then the first commercial property real estate website in the, in the UK and got my first client in 4 95, and then spent quite a few years running, essentially a web agency.

And then all we started develop, develop, uh, our own products. So we had a couple of sites, um, doing on for doing online research or business parks and office office properties. Um, and then at an event called MIPIM is the biggest. Real estate [00:08:00] conference in Europe happens every year in, it was on, in last week, actually in can in the south south of France.

And I went to that in 2001. And I'd had an idea for how all the technologies that were available that could be really useful for running, um, buildings. Okay. And I, and I met, uh, I met someone there who was the bus business development director of the property management arm of what was then the biggest real estate company in the UK.

And this was very late at night after lots of drink. And I started whispering on about, you could do this, you could do that. And fantastic. And, um, and then the following following week, he got in touch and he said, oh, come over. I want to introduce you to the bosses and let's see what ,we can do. And cut a long story short.

I then entered into a, a, a joint venture with. Sage property, property management company. [00:09:00] And we launched a product called vicinity and the idea of vicinity was using the, the, the, the worth, the space around us was our tagline. So the idea was, what do I need that as a, as an entrepre space, what do I need to make using, using my office building easier, um, for work and what do I need for fun?

And so it was predicated on the idea that at lunchtime, you could probably walk five to 10 minutes, do something and walk five to 10 minutes back. So we, we took a building like a circle around it, and we did, um, pulled out all the amenities within, within that area. So these are the restaurants, these are the shops, these are the whatever.

So it had this. What, what is now tenant called tenant engagement act? Yeah. Um, it had those before the idea of tenant engagement acts happened. This is two, 2000 2001. So half of the site was, if you, [00:10:00] we always used to describe it as the fluffy side, that's the fun side. Okay. And then it also had a suite of property management tool.

So we, over the years we developed a visitor management system, helped their system permits to work all, all, all those licensed alterations and those sorts of things. So we, we had this sort of mix between the functional stuff of how do I get in my building? How do I register a guess? How do I, um, raise a help desk request and, and the, the fun side.

And so that, that went on for quite quite a few years. And then they had a deal to buy me out after a certain number of years and being a much bigger player. They, they did. I stayed with them for a while or quite a long time actually, cause I just loved it. Um, and then round about 2013, I started, uh, writing my blog and I started writing for, and then slowly over the years used to do more writing and then, and then [00:11:00] started doing talking and then that all developed and the two years or so before COVID struck, I probably had the most fun of my whole whole career.

Cause I was essentially flying, flying around Europe. Giving, uh, talks all over the place, which was magnificent. So COVID was certainly a bug in that business model. um, and, but what happened then was at the same time in end of 2019, um, with a, with my co-founder the academy at Chuck called draw poll, which many of your listeners might, well, who might well know, we started thinking, well, should we, should we develop really?

We should develop a course because both of us worked in PropTech as it was then called. And there's always this thing in PropTech of you've got the tech people who know nothing about real estate and the real estate people who know nothing about tech, we thought, well, we could probably do a course to help, help explain one, one to one to, [00:12:00] and fortunately that was to in March, 2020, When the proverbial hit the fan and we didn't do anything until, until may, because, you know, remember that time, it was like, no one knew what was going on, but, but, but since then we've done, I think we've done 12 cohorts, 600 odd students, 46 different countries, every continent apart from Antarctica.

So, um, yes, that's a very, that's a, a long, a longest short version of a long career. yes.

James Dice: Amazing career. Um, I wanna ask you about Vicinity, so. You know, it took a while for those applications, tenant applications to really take off. Right. I mean, it seems like today they're everywhere. There's startups everywhere, all around the world and every building.

It's what it seems like to me has one at this point, [00:13:00] I want to hear what it's like for you. Having started this company in 2001 and have it take so long. Um,

Antony Slumbers: what are, what are your thoughts there? Well, it it's, it's actually quite, quite funny because the day we launched vicinity was probably the biggest number of the people I've ever had sign up for anything.

We had 10,000 people signed up for vicinity on day. We had a big event in, in, in London. There's a development called Broadgate, which is the premier, um, estate. Campus in, in the city of London, the financial district. And there's a fantastic circular area where you have events on. And we put on this amazing, amazing show and we had 10,000 people sign up on, on day one.

And so we, we actually did quite a lot for quite a few years because we would put, we put the service in all the buildings of the, of the company that owned [00:14:00] that I was in the joint joint venture with. So we like finished software on Friday, stick it in the building on, um, Monday, because we were the property managers, we ran these buildings.

Mm-hmm um, so, so for us, it actually, it actually worked pretty well for, for quite quite a long, a long time in a, in a small area. It's very much a, you know, they call it the square mile. And so literally this is like a square mile of my life was a, we, we were a very big thing in the, in the, in the square mile.

So yeah, but it has, it has taken an inordinate inordinately long time. To, to go to go main mainstream. Um, but it always struck me as sort of obvious that yeah, it's a service, it's a service that that's needed. Um, and we come onto it, but it post COVID it's it's I think is, I think COVID is actually completely transforming this market because it's going from something that [00:15:00] really everyone should have, but it tended to only be the very top buildings that had had it in mm-hmm to something that is gonna be pretty, pretty pervasive.

And if you don't have variance on a feed, then, then you're gonna start. You're gonna start having problems.

James Dice: So you were, you were before COVID you were going around and speaking. Um, well, by the way, first, I wanna say before we move on from your career, I have taken the course and I highly recommended to anyone who's listened to this that wants to learn about the trends in the, the real estate, uh, community, which is all the people that are coming.

Like I did from a tech background from engineering back. We, we all need to understand the broader trends in which you're trying to put tech in a building. Well, what's that building here to do? How's that business changing? How does that business work, who are the types of people that you're working with your guys' course is great for, uh, types of people like me to really [00:16:00] understand that bigger picture.

So thank you. Thanks

Antony Slumbers: for doing, and I should say, and I should say I've done your course and it's just as good, the other way around. very, very complimentary .

James Dice: Yeah. It was amazing having you in cohort too last year. So, uh, well, so before COVID though, you were, you were traveling around speaking about how the industry was changing.

I'd love. If you could kind of give maybe a quick hitter on, like, what are the current trends in the industry and let, maybe start with spaces of service. I I'd love to hear you kind of explain that, uh, since you invented the term, um, what what's what's the, the current trend with spaces of service.

Antony Slumbers: Okay.

The, the, the point be the point behind spaces of service is that as I say it fundamentally, the real estate industry is no longer about real estate. It of course is about real real estate. Everything you know about real estate, um, [00:17:00] you still need, you still need to, know but then, but just knowing about real estate in the real estate industry is now necessary, but it's not sufficient because fundamentally the industry is moving from being product based to service based.

Traditionally, we created a product, we sold it or we let it thanks. I'm off Now people don't want to buy a product. They want to buy a service. So we are moving from an industry that's selling that sell, sold a product to now has to deliver a service. And once you start. Once you start to move from being a product industry, to a service industry, everything changes all the, all the, your, your skill sets, your mentality, the way you approach customers, who you understand as your customer, all, all of the, all of these things change.

And that sort of comes under the heading of what I call space as a service So the idea of space as a [00:18:00] service was, was, was twofold. First off, it was literally as a service. So I could procure space, uh, for an hour, a day, a month, a year, a couple of years, but whatever, wasn't a long lease, you know, you look over the last 30 years gone from 25 years.

Um, upwards only went reviews five year reviews. Down to in, in most major cities. Now, I think London's now down to the average lease is sort of six and a half, seven years. I think, I think it's similar in America. If you go to somewhere, if you go to somewhere like, um, Stockholm the average lease is like two years and same in, in Paris.

So it's moving from, from an industry where you signed along a long lease, and then essentially the, uh, the, uh, the counter party could just go away. They, they completely uninterested, but say once you've signed the lease, um, but the other side of space as a service is literally what it says, [00:19:00] says on the box the idea of space that provides the services you need to do whatever it is you need to do as efficiently and effectively as possible.

So it's very much based on the idea of with our real estate hats on what space can we provide someone who's trying to do X. What do we need to provide? someone who's trying to do X to enable them to do it best, best as possible. And that of course means, means the scale. It could mean the temperature could be the lighting.

It could mean the equipment in there could mean the services in there, all manner of things. But the idea is that our job in real estate, in the, in the office market to be successful, the most successful people in the office market going forward are going to be those who understand the wants, needs and desires of their customers and their [00:20:00] customers are now gonna be the individuals in the building.

So historically the customer of a real estate company was whoever signed the lease mm-hmm . So if James was the person signing the lease and they had a thousand people working for him, I didn't care anything about a thousand people. I only had to please, James, if I could get James to sign that lease, boom, I'm away.

Now it's the other way, the other way around, because James has now got to James has now gotta think about those thousand people and how is he gonna make them efficient and effective in space and what, and what do they need? So increasingly me as a asset owner is increasingly gonna have to work with you as the customer, to please your, to help you enable your employees to be as productive as possible.

Now there's, there's some things [00:21:00] with a real estate hat on we can do. And some things we can't do, if you wanna rub and your rotten manager, I can't change that. I, if you're a bad company, I can't make you a good company, but if you're a good company, I can make you better. I can, I can help you through the physical environments.

I put you in, get the most, the most outta, outta, out of your people. And that's a completely different mindset. And I think it's where the industry is going. So I, if, if, if you look, if you look at the real estate industry, as you've talked about so many times, it's an industry of silos and you have specialists and very skilled people in, in lots of different, lots of different silos, all those silos have got to come together now.

So I think of it like this. If you are say you want to create a great workplace [00:22:00] so I am selling my space to you as a company, because I'm saying I'm gonna help you create a space. That my competitor can't do now, how do I create a great workplace? Well, to do that, you actually currently need six different industries.

So you need real estate people. You need IOT people. So you need people who are gonna put in the networks. You need data, people who are gonna understand the data, the, it comes outta those networks. You're gonna need workplace designers. You're gonna need hospitality people, and you're gonna need HR at the moment.

All of those are required to create a great efficient and effective workplace, but they are six different industries, right? That don't H.

They're always joking about how little they talk to HR [00:23:00] people and HR people always go, well, we never talk to the workplace people. And, and it it's patently ridiculous, but it's not ridiculous based on the incentives of the work of the way that the industry's set up. And it's something that's particularly strong in your course.

And we cover in different circumstances in our course, the issue of incentives is so, so important that you can have, you've got these six different industries. They've each got different incentives for what they're, what they've got to do. I need to do that because of this. I need to do that because of this.

And then, and, and they not aligned. And, and in your world, you you've got the, the people with the different, um, hardware skills, if you like, or with all with the different incentives, but you are never gonna create. A great workplace. And I'm just talking about offices here for, for now. You're never gonna create a great workplace unless long [00:24:00] term, unless you can align the incentives of all the players.

So most fundamentally, you've got to align the interest of the landlord, the management company, and the, the, the occupy who at the moment have three very different, uh, alignments. And this is gonna be something that's very, very different, difficult to do, because if you take my argument of, you've gotta take these six skillsets, align the interests to create a great workplace who the hell is gonna do that because, you know, am I gonna do that as a landlord?

Am I gonna do that as a company? Am I gonna do that as a property management company, possibly, possibly, possibly more likely a and other industry will develop. That will be approaching the problem to solve this. And that's basically the flex industry. This is where the flex industry has, has, has come up.

Cause [00:25:00] effectively the flex industry is a software services layer on top, on top of the hardware of a building. Okay. So in a flex, in the flex, uh, industry, you've got to be bothered about all those bits. Yeah. Because you've really gotta have an awful lot of control over your space. And you've really gotta understand how your space is being used because you are selling it by the you're selling it by the, by the short term.

You can't just, you can't just think about it every year. I mean, I, when, when my hobby horses is how people create great workplaces and then they go, oh, I'll co well, first of all, they say, well, we'll do a post study and then they never do. Um, or they say, oh, we'll come back next year and see how you get odd.

Know, in a year later, and for eight months of that year, the workplace hasn't worked very well because you look beautiful until you put people in it. But unless you monitor these things on ongoing basis in the flex industry, [00:26:00] you've gotta monitor stuff every day because you're sending it every day and you've gotta optimize you continually got, and as your space and understand the wants, needs and desires of your, of your customer.

And that's why the flex industry is getting is, is, is getting, getting so, so big. Um, and, and that, and that's really, that's really the point behind, um, behind space space as a service and where, where I think the industry fundamentally your worlds and my worlds are gonna have to collide because I've, I've, I've listened to a number of a number of your podcasts and some fantastic people.

And. The best education you get in your industry is to sit down for a few weeks and shut the door and listen to all your, your podcast. Um, thank you. But a lot, a lot of them are, are very clearly saying [00:27:00] our, our objective is X and that is the right objectives for them. And it it's the objective that's selling.

And in many ways, it's the objective that the customer is buying, but you don't really get, you don't get the position of actually start with the customer and work and work back to the technology. You know, there's this famous and VI video of, of Steve jobs. And it was when he came back to apple and he was giving an a, an all, all hands meeting and people were lining up to ask him questions and someone, someone got up and, and said, Basically, what are you doing here?

You don't know anything about technology. What do you know about Java? Why are you here? Why should we be interested? Why should we be pleased that you've come back? And he's quite funny, cuz you can see Steve jobs. He was, you know, a brilliant man, but not [00:28:00] famously the um, uh, the least combative person you've ever seen, getting really, really close.

And, and he says nothing for about 20 seconds. Mm-hmm and then he goes into this fantastic talk about, you have to start with the customer and work back to the technology. And he says, what we need to do here at apple is understand what great things can we do for our customer? What, what do they want? What do they not know that they want, that we know that they would want if they had it and then we, and then we work out how, how to do it and.

That fundamentally is where I think this the office industry is, is going to have to get to. Now, this brings us nicely into the whole COVID thing, pre COVID. What was it? 5% of people used to work, work remotely, full time. Lots of people went off Friday [00:29:00] afternoons and all that sort of stuff off. Then suddenly we got to March 20, 20, 20 and 95% of the knowledge workers around the world went home.

And funny enough, what we learned over the last two years is that broadly speaking, working from home works, we've actually discovered that the world hasn't fallen in. There's an awful lot of companies that frankly have had really, really good pandemics, um, have done amazing things. You know, finance has done amazingly well.

Um, online retails done well. The tech company's done incredibly well and everyone's been working without an office and two years is long enough to change a muscle muscle memory. If it had it, would've been mine back. We go, now you can just see everyone going, why I'm not coming back five days a week. And I know there's, there's an [00:30:00] increasing push in certain areas and I, I see it over there and it happens over here as well.

You get stupid. I ideas like it's your duty to go back to the office. You know, you've got to, you've gotta save the city center. It's your responsibility. And everyone's going, no, I'm not gonna do that. I don't need to do that. And there is really, really good research and analysis has been done on how people have.

Been since, since, since being away and the best stuff is actually by a company called Leman, do the Leman index and they've done fantastic work on, um, understanding re remote needs. The bottom line is essentially for roughly 70% of people working from home. It's basically, okay, it's fine. Does it cover everything?

No, but it's basically fine for 30% of people. It's very much not fine for a whole, for a whole, a whole host of reasons, but overall, not [00:31:00] surprisingly, it's a bell, it's a bell curve of interest. It's a, a, maybe five, 10% of people wanna work in the office. Five days a week, five per 10% of people want to be fully remote forever.

And then there's a bell curve. People who basically are perfectly happy to do what they need to do as they're doing it now, but it really would be nice to come in and see you. And it would be better to come and see the, the, the, the client every now and again, it would be good for our team to get together.

And when we're dealing with this task, definitely it would be better to be in. So you've got this situation brewing now where the smart, the smarter companies, well, the, the, the dumb companies are fighting it. The dumb companies will fight it and they go, well, as soon as we can, let's just get everyone back in.

What will happen then is the people who can leave. The ones you don't wanna leave will will leave. But the smarter companies are leaning in into this and really [00:32:00] analyzing at a very granular level. What is it that James needs? What is it that the team or teams at work James works in needs? And therefore, what do we need to provide in terms of, in terms of real estate?

And it could be, James is, I dunno, it might be part of the, part of the sales team. And sales teams are more likely to wanna spend more time huddle huddle together. And they go, well, we wanna be in three time, three times a week, give us some desks, tight, tightly packed, you know, turn the heat up a bit. We like, we like it like that.

Mm-hmm the accounts department will be going. I's no way I'm going to travel to two hours to sit there quietly, say 45 words to someone else today and go tippy Tappy on my, on my keyboard all day. Why, why am I gonna do this? So real the office. And I think the office, I think the office, [00:33:00] I think the right office run in the right way is gonna generate more income than it's ever generated before.

But the wrong office operated in the wrong way is pretty much obsolete. But what I mean by the right office in operated in the right way. Is that the, the elephant in the room with all of this stuff is that pre COVID offices are incredibly badly used underutilized. You know, the average average utilization of an office pre COVID was around about 50%.

And then also the actual satisfaction level with the office was very low as well. One of the questions that Leeman asked in their surveys and they do it for the in office one and the home one is how, how, um, how much does your workplace enable you to be productive or no? Does your workplace enable you to be [00:34:00] and pre COVID?

It was round about 60% of guess. So 40% of office workers were saying my workplace does not enable me to be productive. So if you have 50% occupancy. And 40 50% dissatisfaction with space. There's something very, very wrong, right? In my theory with this, these companies that are going to really think about the wants, needs, and desires of their customers, and are gonna think about what that means in the, the spaces and the services they give.

I think you are gonna see spaces operating at like 70 or 70% plus occupancy with 70% plus satisfaction. And that's worth a hell of a lot of money, but they're gonna take less. They're gonna take a lot less space and they're gonna take a lot better space. So there's, [00:35:00] there's, there's the line, half the space, double the service.

And this is not, this is not. Starting from the point of view of let's save money. In many circumstances, you will be able to save money, but it's not really about saving money because, you know, I know it's come up in your podcast before the thing about 3 30, 300, it's the people that are expensive. Right.

You know, that's, that's the thing that really cost cost you the money. So the, the aim of a space, if I, if I can take a, if I can take a hundred people and put them in, in the right space with the right environmental conditions, perfectly suited to the jobs to be done, that they have, I'm gonna get incredible productivity outta productivity outta their way more than them that they get in, in the, in the wrong, in the wrong type of space.

And that's what people are, are gonna pay pay for. So that's all, I mean, about your side of [00:36:00] the industry and my side of the industry coming together, the starting point has got to be. How do we enable these great workplaces and what's needed if you like it, a hardware side, a software side, and a, and a servicing side.


James Dice: Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor Nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.

This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the course@courses.nexus lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview

So if I could repeat that back to you from the standpoint of this audience, you know, people that care about getting technology deployed [00:37:00] in buildings, technology is gonna be really important in the coming years in the office industry. If it enables better experiences or not only better experiences, the right kinds of experiences for the occupants, is that, is that kind of the summary of like where things are

Antony Slumbers: headed?

Yes. Yes. It's. Can this building provide me with the controls I need to, well, can this building provide me with the, the monitoring that's necessary to understand my needs and then provide me with the tools to satisfy those those needs. So I, I think of it in, in, in three, in three buckets that you'd need the technology to understand how your building is working.

So all the stuff that's covered a lot, a lot in your, in your, in your podcast, you know, is, is this [00:38:00] building work working efficiently basically then how is this building being used? Which spaces are being used, which are not being used. Where do people, how do people move around? Where do they go? What do they not go?

and then, An understanding of what it is people are doing, doing in, in the space. And you need, you need all those inputs to, to understand that James needs a room that's super quiet and he needs high speed connectivity. He needs this level of lighting. Preferably if it was, if, if, if it was decorated in a certain way and had this certain type of furniture, boom, that's absolutely the perfect spot.

So how, how can this building do it for me so that when James comes in, he moves into a build into a rig. This is my sort of fantasy, but where do I go? [00:39:00] The building's gonna adapt is gonna know me. Anthony likes it like this, and it's just gonna adapt for me. I don't actually want to, you know, there's also talk about, oh, well, there's, you know, you have some controls and you have a app and it does it.

You actually don't want that. The building needs to know needs to understand me and my needs. Now immediately I need to train it. I'm sort of thinking it almost like training a, an AI model. You know, you have to, you have to tell, tell the, you have to tell the algorithm what, what, what you want. I wanna tell the building for a certain amount of time, what I want, and then I wanna go in a room and I want the building to give it to me.

And I know, I know that's actually really difficult to, to do on the other end, but fun, but fundamentally that that's, that's the point that you have to marry up. What are the, what are the needs of the customer? And can the [00:40:00] building, can the building just, just provide it now that's so, you know, that's when I start thinking with, with smart buildings that I see, I see quite a lot about smart buildings, which about, oh, we could use this technology, that technology and whatever.

And as you said, loads of time and lots to your, your, your guests have said, there's an amazing amount of data that is put out by buildings. That's just, well, that's nice, but no one ever does anything does anything of about it. But I do a lot of work with, with the, on the other end with the, with the landlords.

And I try and say to the landlords, when they're thinking about, you know, what is a smart bill, exactly this point of what is the, what is the user experience that you are gonna sell to your cus to this customer? And you're gonna sell something fabulous to this customer. Mm-hmm how the hell do you deliver it?

And so you can't talk about, oh, I'm gonna go [00:41:00] and talk to the HVAC people, and then I'll go and talk to the, the, these people. And I'll go to talk to the, you, you can't do it. You, you have to start from, this is, this is the output. It's not the energy use or whatever. This is the output is that user experience, which is of XYZ.

Now, how now, how do we do, how do we do that? Um, which, which obviously is not easy, but if you don't, if you don't start the discussion based on the idea of creating a great user experience, then, then you've got a, a, then you've got a problem because I, I, I have this line that I use that UX equals brand and brand equals value.

and I try and use the analogy of, if you think of, um, if you think of a luxury car market. So over here we think of Mercedes Audi BMW. Mm-hmm, the most important customer [00:42:00] for each of them is the person buying their first luxury car. Cause it's, it's a bit like the Jesuits once they got you. They've got you.

They've got you for life. And, and you know, I was a, well, until I moved to Tesla, I had S for years and years and years, my brother has always had BMWs. And my father for 40 odd years was a Mercedes chat. Okay. And so they have amazing brands, but you into a user experience, you know, the, the, the point about, you know, you buy an entry level Mercedes, and it has just that little bit of what it's like to sit in an S class.

It isn't, but it has that little, it has that little feel of it. Um, and what I think you're increasingly going to get is you are either gonna get a few landlords who are going, be able to create these effectively [00:43:00] consumer brands and, or you are going get series of the brands that are developing really, really strong now.

So the industrious convene, people like that, they have very particular audiences in mind, customer user expense, you go into a convene, you know what you're it's like, it's like in the hotel market, you have hotels at one end of the market. So the lower end of the market, no Fris, but they can be brilliant at what they're trying to do.

And at the other end, you go into four seasons and it's wonderful, but it's very.

Whereas the office market used to be essentially a generic product. What do you want? 200,000 square feet of gray. A space, please. No, I don't want that anymore. I want the user experience and the trick, the longer term trick is gonna be, well, you go to industrious, aren't you, if you want that. Well, you go to convene or you go to X, Y, [00:44:00] Z, you know, name, name, company.

I mean, it's, it's funny. We all have a go and in many ways, rightly so at WeWork, um, we clearly did lots of stuff wrong, but they sure as hell did lots of stuff. Right. As well. And in terms of a consumer brand of office, WeWork was the first consumer brand of the office. In the sense of, if you went into the street and asked the man on the street, do you know who WeWork is?

They go, yes. You went to the man on the street and said, do you know who I know land securities or. They never heard of them. Yeah. And I think this, this isn't all the markets, but this is the, this is, I think it's probably the top 30, 40% of the market is gonna be, this is, this is the space as a service market where I still an office.

I don't need it five days a week [00:45:00] and I don't need as much of it as you maybe hope to want, but I do need an office and I don't need it for very, but I want it to be really good and it's gotta do this and I will pay for that. Um, and, and, and that that's, that's gonna be the game it's gonna move for on trying to let the amount of space for the longest period of time to actually the smallest amount of shortest period of.

To, to sell you one star, you know, Starbucks. I mean, they'll joke about how the hell do you pay $5 for coffee? You know, there was, there was a time that you just keep refilling it for you. You know, it, it's all brand in its premium and it's what you want at the, at the time. And you, and you'll pay for that.

And I think what you'll find is a lot of the users will end up instead of say taking 10,000 square feet, they'll take 5,000 square feet, but they'll pay what they would've paid seven [00:46:00] and a half for. OK. So, and that has got be that has got to be the game that as an I'm saving money, but as a, as a provider, I'm actually making more money per square foot.

So you are gonna get this. You're gonna get the situation of instead of a rising market, raising all boats, which is what happened, used to happen in real estate. When the market went up, everyone was a genius. And when it went down, everyone was an idiot. Yeah. You're gonna get both at the same time now. And I think you, you're gonna get two buildings next to each other.

One of one of which is packed and worth of. And the other one is Betty is almost empty. Okay. But it's

James Dice: yeah.

How to make buildings more suitable for this future. But first I wanna talk about sustainability before we, before we tie that [00:47:00] in. So can you talk about, and you've been writing a lot more about this recently, especially with the recent events in Eastern Europe, but, um, well, Ukraine just be specific. Um, can you talk about what the current trend is in sustainability and specifically decarbonization, right.

Um, and how that's gonna change things, uh, in the real estate industry. And then I wanna circle back into, okay. What does an asset need to look like? Uh, moving forward.

Antony Slumbers: Yeah. In, um, in the, in the, and this is pretty much across the board in Europe, and as far as I understand similar in us, maybe not quite as advanced in the demands.

In the us than, than Europe so far, but it was, it was coming, it was coming anyway. We, there was a big move towards investors [00:48:00] were being, were being hit over their head to promise that they would invest in sustainable assets and we're, and we're, and the message was very clear that if you don't invest in the, it, it, it was getting, it was getting to the point of one big developer said to me, the thing about sustainability now is you don't have any option because if you don't do it, you can't finance your building.

So over here, it got to the stage. If you try and build a building. there, great line in one of your podcasts recently talking about a code building, which was the worst building you were actually allowed to build. right. I love that. Um, if you try and do that, you won't get, you won't get it fund funded over here now.

So you've got the, the investors pushing for that. Mm-hmm um, you've got regulators who are equally being, being pushed and, and, you know, certainly there's, there's the [00:49:00] push to, uh, net net zero by 2050. But the point about net zero by 2050 is that you can't wait until 20, 45 to worry about it, because if you don't get to point X by 2020, or.

It's all being pushed along earlier. And I know this is happening in America in particularly in California and in New York, there's various regulations that if you don't do X, we're gonna come and hit you really hard. Mm-hmm um, so you've got investors, you've got regulators and increasingly you've got end users.

Um, you know, there's not that many people as vocal as do Greta, but by and large, particularly younger people want to live, want to work in sustainable places, you know, to an extent old there's lots of old cottages like, like me, you know, or certainly the trumps of the [00:50:00] world don't care. Cause there's not are gonna them, but it's gonna bother their grandchildren cuz they're gonna have to live with the consequences of all this mm-hmm so you've got a very strong free.

Push towards sustain sustainability. So it was happening anyway. And as an example of that, a friend of mine who runs one of the big developers over here was telling me the story about a building that they had. And they would went through the whole leasing process. And it was a usual thing arguing about this, that, and the other back and forth, back and forth.

And then eventually they signed and then they went out for a drink afterwards. And he said to the, the, the Bossler of his new customer, you know, why did you take, why did you sign in the end of the day? And he said, it was a very simple really Steven, you had the most sustainable building available. And we wanted the most sustainable building in London and it was yours.

That's why it was almost really like nothing else mattered. That's what, that's what, that's what mattered we wanted to be. Be [00:51:00] partly because presumably a lot of them actually genuinely wanted that. But also the number of boxes you tick. What am I in the most sustainable building? Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

You know, it works for lots of people. So all of that was coming anyway. And I was thinking even before, even before all the Ukraine stuff kicked off, this is gonna be this combined with COVID just, just to, just to put the joint, join the tube. The whole point about COVID is it showed us that actually buildings can do you, a lot of damage.

Buildings can kill you. If you go in the wrong. If you're in the wrong building with the wrong ventilation and someone's got the wrong virus virus, it can kill you. So the require push towards air quality was clearly going to be a big thing. And of course you get the, the, the, the push to sustainability, but [00:52:00] effectively, if you solve one, you solve the other.

Build a sustainable building and you're gonna have good air quality, have good air quality. And you're probably gonna have a sustainable building. The two nicely, nicely Merry marry together. So you've got the, you've got all these, all these hammers pushing in that direction. You've got, COVID making it that if anyone is sensible, they would not be going back into any office buildings.

I couldn't tell them what the air quality is like. Um, I'm slightly surprised how it's not a bigger thing. Cause I would be very nervous if I had to go back into an office full time. Mm-hmm I wanna know you put it up on the wall. Tell me, um, so you've got all of that happening and then boom, the horrors of Ukraine pop up.

And in Europe we are currently very, very dependent on Russian oil and gas and it [00:53:00] has to stop doesn't. Maybe it has to stop. Let's wind it down slowly. No, this has to stop. And there's lots of talk over here at the moment of actually we need to drop all this net zero stuff because we've got bigger energy problems.

I think it's the opposite. I think this means we clearly, we've gotta at the moment, we've gotta deal with lots of people probably would rather not particularly Saudi to get the oil that from them, which is slightly less worse than buying it from Putin. We'd need to do that. But to me, this is like turbocharge, the whole sustainability agenda, cuz we have got to get to energy resilience across, across Europe ASAP and, and frankly, the faster we do it, the faster we will do it, which sounds silly.

But what I mean is the faster we invest in sustainable technologies, actually [00:54:00] the curve. There was, there was a research report came out last week that that showed that if you were looking at, at, at the curve, instead of just going like that, if you gently invest, it gets better over the time. If you push hard, you can, you can tilt that, tilt that curve.

So you could actually get to sustainability, um, quicker. You've got this huge confluence of things now that I don't care what you say. You've gotta build a sustainable building. You've gotta give it good air quality. And if you want anyone in it, you've gotta think about the customer experience. And if, and that's it, you've gotta make that happen.

That's your problem go? How to, um, how to do it all.

James Dice: So if, if we sort of try to tie a bow on all of that, is that like, what is a smart asset then is a smart asset one that is all of those things you just described.

Antony Slumbers: I see a smart asset as one that. [00:55:00] Enables the people within it to perform as efficiently and effectively as they are capable of doing this building does nothing to impede my cog, my cognitive function.

So, so the classic thing of, you know, there's, there's so much research about the, um, the different, the, the impact on cognitive function of CO2 levels, temperature noise. My, my idea is all the talk of how, how can you define productivity in a, in a workplace now as the real estate people, as I said earlier, are my customer.

You run a Roten company. I can't make you. You're a.

Is, and the only thing I can do with my real estate hat on is I can put your people in the environmental conditions [00:56:00] that I, that I know they can perform as well as they're capable of performing. So you are sitting in an area, but there's no reason you have no excuse to say, oh, you know, wasn't thinking straight.

No, you were, if you weren't thinking straight it's because you can't think straight, nothing environmental about the reason why. So, so, and, and that's what I think productivity is. And it is being able to sell, say to people, look as far as possible as this last month, the temperature is the CO2 levels with this, the noise was this, the lighting lighting was this.

And they're all absolutely within the, not just the bounds of tolerance, but you know, this is optimum optimum space. So if your people didn't do a good job, There's another reason, but I'm with my real estate hat on. I can't deal with that. I can deal with. So that's what, that's what smart a smart asset is.

[00:57:00] Okay.

James Dice: The last question I wanna ask you is around people. So I've seen all the people come through your course, that's a diverse and sort of, you know, global really, really smart community. And then you've seen all the people coming through my course. So that's a different community, but very similar in terms of intelligence.

Right? Um, so when you think about smart assets, like what are the types of skillsets and mindsets and types of people we need to sort of create this transition, uh, from dumb assets to smart assets.

Antony Slumbers: I, I think it's a, I think it's a case of people tend to fit in three, three different, three different camps.

You get thinkers, feelers and doers. So thinkers tend to be the people who can analyze, analyze the situation. They're very good at UN understanding causality correlation and co causality. You [00:58:00] get the feelers who are people with very high IQ and empathy who can understand the problems, the issue issue of the customer.

They're trying to look, look at, look after. So one, the, the, the thinkers are understanding the, the, uh, a equals a B equals B reason what happened. The feelers are understanding the, the why it happened. How did that make them? How did that make them feel cetera? And the people, people then.

In terms of the, the, the thinkers in, in, in your world would be the people who understand, who can understand, who can get that great big map of the a hundred different systems running in the building and under understand all the connections [00:59:00] and can understand what needs to be connected. The feelers would, the people who look beyond the, we want to use energy as efficiently as possible to well, or why.

And again, on one of your podcasts today, some was talking about the thing about cramping, cramping, people in an office, the, the, the trend towards, you know, higher, higher density mm-hmm. And so that's all very well, but everyone's sitting there with their head, head headphones on trying to ignore everyone as a, as a, as a, as they, as they cramp up.

That's the, that's something a feeler would understand. You're over. You are over, you are over optimizing Steven Sinofsky who used to run windows. So Microsoft has had this great phase of, um, of about, about making, making things as friction free as is sensible. Some things shouldn't be comp, totally friction free.[01:00:00]

And I'm Mike Del pre who, who, um, does a lot of work on the residential market, talks about one click house buying. And he says, can you imagine if you actually had that though, can you imagine the exact anxiety of, I can buy a house with one, with one button? Do I, do I push it? That that would be an example of making something actually too efficient?

Cause you'd actually be creating, creating anxiety, you know, if I've made the wrong with that sort of thing. And, and then, and then as I say, the doers would then be, would then take the. Take those understandings and work at well, what the hell do we do about it? And they be the ones who say, well, you know, you've gotta do this.

You've gotta, you've gotta do that. But, but these groups have gotta work together. And they a, I dunno if this is just a real estate thing or happens in, in other, in industries, but [01:01:00] we don't, we tend to not create multifunctional teams. Mm-hmm so we don't naturally, you know, stick thinkers, feelers and doers together.

We stick all the thinkers there, all the, you know, it's like, well, there's the marketing partner. There's the account department. There's the engineering department. There's the I, it department. One of the things that I was always most struck out looking at, uh, the way

actually. And I'm not sure if this is actually actually true, but it was once someone either read or so the Amazon actually doesn't have an it department as such, so there is not an it department. It has loads and loads of it department, but the, it, people are all, all dispersed amongst groups. I, you know, I dunno if it's still like this, but you know, ZOS used to talk about the two pizza group, didn't he?

No, no group should be bigger than [01:02:00] two, two PE two pizzas. Well, you'd always have an it person in that. So the, it people, you know, they're, they're on as it were, everyone's mix mixed up. So I think that's, that's where it's gonna become very, very interesting. To what extent do you bring in, um, Anthropologists in, into your world for instance.

And I've, I've seen quite a lot of this actually anthropologists pop up because they understand, you know, in the sort of the think and, and, and the field sort of side, overall, I think we, we need more input. We need more diversity of diversity of, of input into what, whatever, whatever organization, but particularly now mm-hmm . If, if the end point is a service, that's got to be [01:03:00] delivered, you have no choice, but to have multifunctional teams. Cause if it's just a product, you can get to a product with a non multifunctional team.

There it is. Boom, different outputs, put it together. And there's a thing that is an ongoing service. So, you know, uh, build measure and build measurer, build measure, build, measure, learn so totally different skills. I love that.

James Dice: I love that answer. Thinkers, feelers, doers, and anthropologists. yes.

Antony Slumbers: Oh,

James Dice: well, that's, that's amazing.

This has been so much. Can we wrap up with some carve outs? Do you have something you'd like to share with people? Book, movie, TV show podcast

Antony Slumbers: that you'd, it, it, it was, it was funny. When, when you said you got a suggestion. Oh, I just look for my, my Amazon book orders. So I clicked on Amazon book orders.

There's 683 books. I realized bought Amazon. [01:04:00] Wow. Since I had an account there, I, oh, well, but I do six free suggestions, but was, there was one book that came out about.

The chap who is now the CEO of Accenture tech chap called Paul Doty. And it's called human plus machine reimagining work in the age of AI. And I think this is, this is actually really worth reading because it's, it fits in with everything we've been, been talk talking about, but humans on their own are not gonna win the machines on their own are not gonna win.

What is gonna win is humans who can understand how to leverage the machines and the machines that have been designed in order to make the human, the human better. And what the, what this book does is it's very good at explaining what machines are good at, what computers are good at [01:05:00] and explaining what humans are good at.

And fortunately, they're not the same. Otherwise we'd really be in a problem, but you know, what we, what we are good at as humans is what machines are not good at. And this talks about. The how, how, how these two worlds are gonna in intersect and, and argues that the success in the future has, has to come from technologies, understanding more human.

And if you like the humanities, people understanding more, more tech technology, which again, gets back to think readers do multifunctional teams services and everything. So human plus machine reimagining work in the age of AI. And then if I, if I can plug my own own stuff, my blogger, Anthony, slumber.com.

And if anyone, um, Enjoys Twitter. Then my Twitter at Anthony slumps is, is fun. And I, I put loads of loads of recommendations and stuff in, [01:06:00] in those all the time. But human plus machine is, is a good book worth week.

James Dice: Totally. Yeah. It sounds very related to what we've been talking about today and yeah, I'd recommend your blog, uh, for or anyone that wants to hear more about, well, everything we've talked about today, these are the topics that you've been writing about for a really long time.

Um, okay. So the book I'm reading this week, the one I'll share is called lost connections. Um, and it's got a really like funny from the standpoint of like, I, I felt weird about sharing this cuz it says the subtitles, why you're depressed and how to, um, I don't really find myself a depressed person, but I was, I was at my friend's house and they had this on the bookshelf and I was like, Hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna ch I'm gonna pop this open and see what it's like.

And it hooked me immediately. But it's, it's super related to what we've been talking about. So the reason it hooked me though, is because I struggle with anxiety and anxiety and depression are like, uh, brother sister type of ailments. But the reason I think it's important to like share as it relates [01:07:00] to this conversation is, um, he's basically tying depression and anxiety to lost connections.

That's title of the book, connections to other people, people connections to community connections, to nature, um, connections to our own health connections, to meaningful values. And there, I think there are two more that I can't think of right now, but it's essentially like what could a building provide that could help with those things is probably a lot in there in terms of the community and connections and health and you know, all, all kinds of stuff.

So maybe our, maybe our anthropologists and thinkers and feelers and doers need to be, need to be thinking about, you know, the psychology

Antony Slumbers: of depression and that kinda thing. Well, it it's interesting that cause one of the points I, I didn't didn't make is part of this. This future office that I see is I think of it as the office has got to be somewhere that catalyzes human skills, because the machines are going to do what the [01:08:00] machines do.

So what are we gonna do? We're gonna be, we're actually need to, to, uh, push our own human human skills. And you know what? It's like, you go in the right space and you think I love it. Here you go in the wrong space and you go, oh, it's horrible here. Mm-hmm . And we need to think about that. So if you go into, if you go into a space and it catalyzes your human skills, then you've hit the bullseye.

James Dice: Love it. All right. That's a great place to end off and thanks so much for coming on the show.

Antony Slumbers: Appreciate it. It's a pleasure. Really? You.

James Dice: All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.