RXR’s Rechler: Proptech adoption only in “second or third inning”

Developer blames failure of leadership for slow return to offices, says tech instrumental to commercial recovery

RXR Realty's Scott Rechler and Commercial Observer's Max Gross 
RXR Realty's Scott Rechler and Commercial Observer's Max Gross

New York City’s commercial property market is coming back to life, thanks in large part to proptech’s contributions to health and safety protocols, according to RXR Realty’s Scott Rechler. But it’ll take time for landlords to fully realize technology’s transformative potential.

Commercial property owners piled investment into proptech during the pandemic to bolster health infrastructure, enhance sustainability and accommodate flexible leases and hybrid work models, but the industry is only in the “second or third inning” of adoption, Rechler said Wednesday at Propel by MIPIM, a real estate technology conference at the Javits Center.

“Covid hits, and the trend you thought was going to be a three, five, ten-year process accelerated overnight,” he said.

RXR did not fully commit to comprehensive proptech integration until 2019, Rechler said, but it went full bore when it did. The firm hired 25 data scientists, engineers and product developers and launched RxWell, a data analytics platform — now called WorxWell — which aggregates building data related to occupancy, temperature, air quality and other environmental factors, deployed across all of RXR’s 25-million-square-foot portfolio.

On Tuesday, View Inc., a “smart glass” manufacturer and building data platform, said it had reached a deal to acquire WorxWell from RXR and integrate it into its tech stack — the latest in a string of proptech consolidations this year. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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“We realized while creating products for our customers that things were moving so quickly, that if we were going to be able to ensure that our product was the most competitive, provided the highest level of service, and had the greatest level of security, so that it was really at the forefront, we couldn’t do that internally in our lab at RXR,” he said. “We needed to be part of a technology company.”

Rechler said the slow return to pre-pandemic work norms represented a failure of leadership on the part of business and government, who he said have not identified a clear mission and goals, contributing to the public’s general confusion. The virus should be combatted the same way global terrorism was combatted in the wake of 9/11, he said, by building out the necessary infrastructure to coexist with it, rather than hiding from it.

“We’re not eradicating Covid,” he said. “Covid is going to be in our lives for many, many years in some form, or derivation — or some new virus. It’s a threat that we’re going to have to learn to live with.”

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