In response to the rulings which will see 100 per cent foreign ownership and an integrated visa system, aimed at attracting professionals and global talent across all vital sectors of the national economy, the head of an international construction consultancy firm explains how the construction industry can play its part in attracting and retaining global talent.

Stephan Degenhart, Managing Director at Drees & Sommer Middle East, suggests commercial construction consultants can incorporate the theory of ‘usability’ to attract the best global talent, by creating a healthy and well-thought-out environment that ensures wellbeing, productivity and staff retention. From an economic perspective, Degenhart explains implementation of the usability concept will ultimately achieve higher rental yields, occupancy rates, maximum cost efficiency and the future-proofing of real estate return on investment:

The term usability is related of the broader user experience and refers to the ease of access or use of a place. A design is not usable or unusable, its features, together with the context of the user, what the user wants to do with it and the user’s environment, determine its level of usability.

Europe has an existing culture of developing real estate to attract talent, but the UAE is well placed to implement this concept as it is still in early stages of construction development, comparative to Europe.

So, the question becomes how do we make established properties attractive and future-safe? How do properties have to adapt to the rental and employment market to remain profitable? And what role does usability play in this? To fully exploit the potential of real estate, it’s time for a change of perspective. Global talent won’t look for suitable buildings, they expect buildings to adapt to them and cater to their performance and convenience, so in order to win the talent race we must look to exploit this set of expectations.

Drees & Sommer has recently undertaken a usability project on an existing retail space in JBR. The retail units were originally located and designed to service the surrounding residential units,over time the developer and owner realised the space was severly under-used and approached us to oversee the transformation of the space into more commercially beneficial residential units. Examples like this, of forward thinking developers, allow the country to make use of all previously listed benefits. The project is not complete, however the rental yields per square foot, and occupancy rates are antipicated to increase ten-fold. A solid ROI.

As the UAE looks to attract foreign talent to improve its economy and global position, the construction industry should play its part. Future talent will only live and work over a prolonged period where they feel comfortable. They demand a healthy and well-thought-out work environment that ensures wellbeing and productivity, which also promotes staff retention. Intelligent learning and work environments even help to combat skills shortage.

Dubai’s first building was erected in 1979, just eight years after the formation of the union and the birth of the UAE. In the short timeframe of 47 years, the country has witnessed rapid economic development and is quickly becoming a favourable destination for many global companies looking to expand outside of their home countries. With over 27,000 new buildings currently under construction and plans to accommodate further economic growth, the UAE is taking great strides towards achieving its objective to become an international hub for business and development.

By encouraging developers and owners to adopt and implement the concept of usability, Drees & Sommer hopes to create a bridge to support businesses in the foreign market looking to open its doors in the UAE, in light of the recent decision announced by the UAE government.

Usability considers both current and future users, in addition to facilities or elements that may be necessary throughout the building’s lifespan, including features that are easily adapted-to by users and can meet both current and future demands. Digitisation plays a significant role in reinforcing the usability of a building, and is a direction a lot of trendy foreign companies are taking. There has been a global shift in employee expectations as the millennial generation begins to infiltrate the international workforce, slowly pushing out the suite and tie genesis. Developers have to create commercial buildings that help future tenants attract the right talent. This would include elements such as intelligent parking lots and meeting rooms, smart access control and efficient facility management that contributes towards cost effectiveness.

It is important to understand how to boost the efficiency of a building and reduce operational costs without compromising on safety. These elements, along with the future prospect of attracting business from foreign companies, are what make usability attractive to local building developers in the UAE’s relatively young commercial real-estate market. To adopt the concept of usability into a commercial building a developer needs to have a thorough understanding of the future tenants and occupants it wishes to attract, their expectations and what factors will set it apart from the rest of the market.

Usability is a trend that is becoming more and more prevalent across international markets and will soon see a larger uptake in the UAE as more foreign companies begin to enter the market, which will be accelerated by this ruling.