CBRE's Megan Burke has an idea for our cities that's a breath of fresh air...
Megan Burke of CBRE's Advisory and Transaction Services Team in Dublin, is one of 12 finalists in 'The Cities For Our Future Challenge', a global competition run by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), in partnership with UNESCO. The aim of the competition is to harness transformative ideas for projects and policies from the organisation's younger members, to help solve some of the challenges facing our cities arising from rapid urbanisation.
Burke told me that she developed an interest in 'mega-trends', which are factors impacting on cities today, such as climate change, technology and economic growth. The denser the population, the more pronounced the effects of these forces.
Burke's day-to-day role sees her working with office developers and owners such as Hibernia Reit, Starwood Capital and Kennedy Wilson and her aim is to add value in how landlords structure their leases, minimise rental voids, increase headline rents and negotiate 're-gears' - to keep tenants in place and defer break clauses.
In approaching the competition, she set out to tie in her interest in 'adding value' and sustainable buildings with the problem of air pollution in London. As part of this, she researched how pollution might be tackled through the application of technology. Her proposal is to incentivise landlords to erect air-purifying towers on the roofs of office buildings. In return, they are given a commercial rates abatement, which makes their properties more marketable and attractive to strong covenant tenants.
Burke's research identified air-purifying towers, which were first introduced in parks in Rotterdam last year. The towers are 7m high and vacuum and filter the air, using ion technology, and return pollution-free air from the towers' vents. Each tower processes up to 30,000 cubic metres of air per hour, producing air that is 70pc cleaner over an area of approximately 1,000 sq m. Depending on the number of filters used, each tower can cost up to €130,000.
Burke suggests that her idea is original because the landlord bears the cost of erecting the tower but also enhances the appeal of their building to tenants, who will benefit from a more environmentally-friendly atmosphere. She proposes in her paper that London City Council should offer rates rebates of 50pc, to incentivise the developer to provide the towers, while also adding value to their building as tenants benefit from lower rates.
The benefits of this idea obviously multiply as more and more buildings add these towers and the quality of air is improved over a wider area. Local government also has a legal responsibility to maintain a good standard of air quality, and the UK government has recently been sued by ClientEarth (a non-profit environmental law organisation) for STG£400,000, for breaching EU purified-air requirements.
Megan Burke is a great advertisement for part-time property courses. On leaving school in 2007, she did an arts degree before going on to work for eight years with Cushman & Wakefield and DNG Residential. She wanted to diversify into commercial property so she undertook the part-time Property Studies Degree at DIT, whilst working, latterly with CBRE. She "loved that course," which runs on Saturdays, and it was a module in her fourth year which introduced her to the area of 'mega trends' affecting cities.
On the office-letting side, Burke told me that she has had an extremely-busy year and is "delighted" she made the switch into the commercial market. She said that with a city centre office vacancy rate of just 4pc, and very healthy demand, she expects that next year will be even busier.
The winner of the RICS competition will be announced in November. For more information, see citiesforourfuture.com
Property Becomes Animated
Animated videos have become popular in the IT world, where complex topics can be communicated simply. They are now appearing in the property world. One example is a video for trrend.com, who offer a software interface between landlords and tenants, plus databases of market information.
Dylan Healy of Animation Explainers told me that 30-90 second animated videos can be used for marketing commercial and residential properties, and also by agents marketing their services. The idea is to engage and connect with property audiences in a way that is "accessible, persuasive and fun". 'Explainer videos' start at €1,500. For agents wanting to connect with digital audiences, a social media package of videos, aimed at Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram users, is available for a monthly subscription of €650. See animationexplainers.com