CBRE unveils new digital infra advisory unit

Data centres are increasingly moving away from real estate and are a ‘huge infrastructure investment’, according to the new unit’s leader Duncan Clubb.

CBRE has launched a new advisory unit focused on data centre investment and deployment, as it seeks to help guide clients through the “significant operational and reputational risks” in this growing market, it said in a statement.

The new Digital Infrastructure Advisory team is led by Duncan Clubb, who joined CBRE in September 2018, and will have an increased focus on edge data centre deployment, the smaller facilities located closer to end-users.

“In the data centre market we’ve been working in, there’s definitely a huge real estate angle to it, but certainly edge data centres are moving well away from the real estate side,” Clubb told Infrastructure Investor. “One of the things we’re trying to make clear to investors is there are lots of different types of edge, but most of the propositions we’re looking at now are not real estate plays. They are fundamentally huge infrastructure investments.”

CBRE said in a statement that while data centres are an essential part of digital infrastructure, they are expensive and carry “significant operational and reputational risk”, which the new advisory unit will seek to address for clients.

Clubb added that the firm is seeing a growth in Europe in the development of edge data centres at specific sites such as industrial zones, ports and airports and expects further conversations with investors around this end of the market.

“This year we’re seeing a lot more interest and commitments from investors,” Clubb said. “There are a lot of institutional-type investors who are getting really interested, but they’re waiting for the initial test and proof-of-concept-type projects to get done and prove there’s appetite in the market. As soon as that’s done, we’ll see those bigger funds running a lot of money into this.”

CBRE this week bolstered its data centre solutions team with the hiring of a five-strong team from JLL, comprising director Hugo Jack, associate director Katie Hoggarth and senior surveyor Chris Jones in its transactions unit, as well as associate director Oscar Matthews in its capital markets division and associate Henry Gray in its research team.