Office Maintenance Costs Expected To Rise In 2022
USA – Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) said that as more staff start to return to their workplace next year, the cost of running an office is expected to rise after operating expenses fell slightly in 2020, reported The New York Times on Wednesday afternoon (29 December, SGT).
“For 2022 properties budgets, we are anticipating modest overall increases,” said Kristin Mueller, Chief Operating Officer for property management at JLL, a property services company that manages over 1,000 office buildings across the country.
She explained that while the cost to run an office currently remains lower than pre-pandemic levels, the difference is not considerable as many managers expected, as each savings area has a factor that can offset it.
For example, having fewer staff on site means less garbage collection and daily cleaning, but this is countered by the need for deep disinfection and higher labour costs for maintenance. Expenditures on pens, paper towels, and coffee filters may have fallen, but these costs have been replaced with COVID-related purchases, such as of masks and hand sanitisers.
Given that COVID-19 is spread through the air, one of the top changes in building operations has been improving air quality, with many firms reviewing their ventilation and whether to install better air filters or ventilation systems for replacing air more frequently.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one way of enhancing ventilation is by running HVAC systems at maximum for 2 hours before and after buildings are occupied, leading to more cost.
Upgrading HVAC systems can be costly and will push up monthly costs. For instance, new equipment for an average 100,000 sq ft office building in Chicago could cost up to US$100,000 to install. It can also increase the monthly bills by 5 to 10 percent, noted Mueller.
Moreover, building managers are adding more rooftop and patio spaces for staff. But the upkeep of these spaces will result in additional expenses, like cooling and heating. Some new designs also give emphasis to flexible indoor-outdoor spaces, such as garage-door type walls that can be opened to patio space and an airy lobby coffee shop with indoor seating.
Adding outdoor spaces was already a trend prior to COVID-19, but it has now been “elevated in priority,” said Greg Smith, CEO of Seattle-based developer Urban Visions.
“The era of stuffing people into offices like sardines is over,” he added.