On the move: what to consider when selecting a new office in Dubai

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On the move: what to consider when selecting a new office in Dubai

From floor plate efficiency to amenities and accessibility, John Whetstone, Development Director at Dubai World Trade Centre, sets out the key considerations for companies in search of world-class office space

A gateway to fast-emerging markets and a preferred destination for top talent, Dubai is a highly attractive business hub, both for global enterprises expanding into the Middle East and, increasingly, for large multinationals consolidating across the region.

While this is exciting news for the local economy, it comes with an urgent need for quality office space, something the emirate has traditionally lacked.
At Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), we are helping to address this shortage with the construction of One Central, a mixed-use development featuring over 185,000 sq m of grade-A office space, located between Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre and Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
The first office building, completed in January 2016, covers more than 20,000 sq m, of which 98 per cent is already occupied. The next two buildings, which together cover more than 90,000 sq m, were completed at the end of 2017 and began welcoming tenants from February this year.
But what is it that makes these, or any other international-standard building, so desirable? How are they more efficient than the next and, for companies looking for new premises, what are the key considerations?

 

Think location

Before anything, location comes first. Cheaper offices on the outskirts of town may suit some businesses, but larger corporations should look to operate from a Central Business District (CBD) where lawyers, financiers, accountants and other contemporaries are located. This close proximity, or ‘adjacency’, is one of three important components of choosing an office location.
The second is amenity. For convenience, look for an office in an amenity-rich environment, somewhere that’s home to multiple banks, gyms and restaurants. It’s important that these – and other facilities – are at your employees’ fingertips.
The final point is access. Both staff and visitors need to be able to reach the office easily, meaning that access to public transport is key. The less access to public transport, the more parking is required, and this comes at a cost.
At One Central, we have gone to great lengths to facilitate pedestrian access to World Trade Centre metro station, providing an alternative means by which to travel to work. For those who drive, there are more than 7,000 parking spaces across our mixed-use assets, allocated to commercial tenants within the lease.
Your work environment is about more than local amenities and accessibility, however. It goes far beyond this and should enable companies to be part of a wider community that adds even greater value to their business.
When we look across Dubai’s ever changing skyline, we see Emirates Towers Business Park in development, and Zaabeel 1 and ICD Brookfield towers soon to open in the CBD and DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre). We view these as interconnected and mutually supportive projects as Dubai’s CBD moves towards connectivity for people as well as vehicles.
Anyone looking for new office space should consider how a building supports and connects with other developments in the area.

Lease from one landlord

From the external environment to the building itself, floor space is another key consideration. Larger organisations should look for buildings that can fit staff on one level, rather than five or six, as this enhances teamwork, streamlines productivity and improves lines of communication.
Companies should also check a building has just one owner and has not been subdivided and sold to multiple investors either by floor, half floor or – in some cases – down to unit level. Such strata-titled buildings, while often acceptable for smaller companies, can force larger tenants to deal with two or more landlords, a difficult and time-consuming process, especially if each lease has a different tenure.
Strata tenants may also have multiple DEWA bills and additional contracts for parking provision and receptionist and security services. This all adds managerial and administrative time to day-to-day operations when really you should be focusing on your core business.
As a result, buildings with one landlord offer a much simpler operational experience, something we at Dubai World Trade Centre know from first-hand experience.
In 1979, we became the first institutional landlord in Dubai, opening Sheikh Rashid Tower to great acclaim. Then the city’s only high-rise building, we were delighted to be joined by a host of partners many of whom we have enjoyed long and mutually beneficial relationships.
Offering large spaces in the only grade-A office building of the time, we quickly achieved near 100% occupancy, a feat we have proudly maintained for almost four decades.

Seek international standards

The importance of international-standard office space of this type cannot be underestimated. Many buildings in the region – both those built for another purpose and those originally designed as offices – do not meet global standards, which can create a raft of problems.
Take lifts, for example. Poorly designed buildings often house lifts that take up to 20 minutes to arrive, instead of the international industry standard of 25 seconds or less. This not only causes staff to be late, but sets completely the wrong impression to customers and other important visitors. Parking provision may also be inadequate, as well as ventilation and back of office space to support maintenance, cleaning and deliveries.
At One Central, our office buildings are extremely well designed, built to British Council of Offices (BCO) 2009 specifications, which set high standards for a wide variety of features from fresh-air circulation to number of lifts and lift waiting time.
They also outline floor plate efficiency; the number of people who can comfortably work on each floor. If you’re leasing a space of 1,000 sq m, how many people and pieces of office equipment can that space actually hold? Buildings with quirky designs and curved floor plates may look good but they’re generally less efficient.
In an effort to accommodate entire companies on one level, our floor plates are large. At 5,000 sq m, they can accommodate more than 500 employees, often a company’s entire workforce. To ensure you secure as efficient an office space as possible, choose a building that conforms to BCO or other major international standard.

Go green

From building standards to environmental best practice, look for an office that meets global sustainability regulations. All our buildings are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified. This American standard is regarded as the international benchmark for sustainability ratings – many large corporates and blue chips only rent space in LEED-accredited buildings to conform to stringent corporate social responsibility programmes.
While many developers look to achieve LEED certification, few actually attain it, by mistakenly cutting corners or failing to keep the correct documentation. We are one of only a handful of office buildings in Dubai to have this certification, meaning our space, in terms of design, energy usage and building fabric, has been measured against high industry standards to create a healthy, efficient and sustainable working environment.
As a result, we’re able to pass lower operating costs and energy savings to our tenants, allowing for competitive rates and service charges. We also offer a healthier indoor environment with more clean air, natural sunlight and chemical-free paints and finishings. We use LED light fittings, too, recycled timber products and sanitary ware with low flow rates.
Externally, following building tests that use specialist energy modelling, our facades shade from direct sunlight and maximise diffused natural light. We also have a naturally planted green roof that comprises 100 per cent local and adaptive plants, all of which are irrigated through condensate recovery systems and treated sewage effluent. The next phase of the project will introduce a grey water recovery system.
In addition to LEED certification, we also conform to the Dubai Green Building Regulations (DGBR). Mandatory for all new buildings in the emirate since 2014, the regulations set out to improve a building’s performance through reduced consumption of energy, water and materials, and enhanced planning, design and construction.
Operating from a green office isn’t just good environmental practice, however, it’s good business practice, too, as companies save money by minimising waste and reducing electricity and water consumption. It also projects a positive image to clients, showing corporate social responsibility and environmental awareness.
While demand for grade-A office space has long outstripped supply, times are gradually changing as more and more international-standard buildings are released onto the market. This is slowly enabling larger companies to house their workforce across one entire floor and to avoid the minefield that is strata-based leasing.
As a result, Dubai’s position as a gateway to fast-emerging markets is strengthened and top global talent is more easily enticed to move to the city, further reinforcing Dubai’s status as a leading business hub both regionally and across the world. 

Looking ahead

While demand for grade-A office space has long outstripped supply, times are gradually changing as more and more international-standard buildings are released onto the market. This is slowly enabling larger companies to house their workforce across one entire floor and to avoid the minefield that is strata-based leasing.
As a result, Dubai’s position as a gateway to fast-emerging markets is strengthened and top global talent is more easily enticed to move to the city, further reinforcing Dubai’s status as a leading business hub both regionally and across the world.

Topics

  • Commercial Real Estate
  • One Central