Keep your eye on the far horizon, says this writer.
Real estate owners and users are not short of business challenges right now. Climate change, energy use and carbon emission; growing wealth disparity and diverging demographics, coupled with migration, leading to densification and urbanisation; housing shortages and concerns about social impact; the global financial crisis, caused by real estate and still not out of the system (how will QE resolve?); global health issues, including the need to improve our approach to senior living; and, on top of all of these, data digitalisation and the fourth industrial revolution.
We are becoming more and more familiar with a range of new technologies. These include web delivered and phone-ready apps; autonomous vehicles, drones and flying cars; artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning (big data); robotics; virtual reality, augmented reality and computer-aided design; blockchain, distributed ledger technology and quantum computing; sensors and controls; and GPS and GIS.
For property professionals, is this a challenge or an opportunity? Well, it’s an opportunity, of course. If we boil these issues down to the basics, the world of property is being shocked by three mega factors: climate, health and tech. The global climate crisis needs immediate action, carbon emissions need to be reduced and the built environment is reckoned to produce 40% of emissions. The Covid crisis made us all aware of the need for healthy buildings – not just places where we are safe from infection, but buildings with good air quality, showers, cycle racks and places to re-charge, and (given the apparent reluctance of many to return to the office full time) places that encourage productivity and effective collaboration. Finally, the fourth industrial (tech) revolution seriously damaged the retail property sector and has thrown a lot of risk at the office market due to the apparent effectiveness of home-working technology. It has focused investors’ attention solely on beds (residential), sheds (distribution warehouses), eds (schools and universities) and meds (health centres, medical offices, life sciences buildings).