Property sector needs to embrace transformative technologies or face struggle

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Conrad Davies

The property sector should get ready to roll out major transformative technologies by 2020.

This is according to the latest research from international legal practice Osborne Clarke in its report Future proof real estate – is the property sector ready for the 2020s?

Research conducted by FTI Consulting on behalf of Osborne Clarke surveyed over 550 technology experts from the UK, France, Germany and The Netherlands to harness their opinions around the scale of challenges, disruption and opportunities that tech innovations will bring to the property industry in the 2020s.

The respondents delivered a clear message to the sector – that it should be prepared for key tech trends such as big data (73 per cent agree), 3D printing (70 per cent agree), wearable devices/tech (69 per cent agree) – to be ready for large-scale adoption by 2020.

The experts also view the tech industry as an increasingly important influence on the built environment with 82 per cent of respondents stating that their sector should play a key role.

Conrad Davies, Bristol-based partner and head of real estate and infrastructure at Osborne Clarke, which has over 500 people at its offices in Temple Quay, said: “This research gets to the source of the transformative technologies that are set to reshape our cities – the technology experts themselves.

“This gives us an unprecedented understanding of the pace and depth of the changes ahead and what the property sector, across all asset classes, should be doing to stay aligned.

“When viewed as a whole, the research provides a fascinating insight into the 2020s when the built environment looks set to be re-written thanks to the likes of autonomous vehicles, advanced logistics systems and customised homes and offices. These profound changes have the potential to transform how we inhabit the land and how we design, deliver and manage the built environment.”

For the first time, the research explores the strength of the sentiment within Europe’s technology community around their sector’s ability to address key challenges facing the property sector including housing shortages and the rise of ecommerce and urban logistics.

A significant proportion of respondents (82 per cent) believe that innovation can help solve housing shortages by accelerating delivery through greater utilisation of limited spaces (84 per cent agree), delivering cost effective housing (78 per cent agree) and delivering greater density at key locations (82 per cent agree).

Technology should also support the anticipated reduction in home ownership by boosting the appeal of built to rent accommodation amongst the younger (73 per cent agree) and older (70 per cent agree) generations.

In terms of student accommodation, innovations that save students time and money will have the most impact. VR viewings (72 per cent), energy consumption and cost appropriation (68 per cent), and monitoring behaviour to improve overall management (68 per cent) are the elements which are most likely to improve.

Not only are technology firms shaping office design, tech experts also predict that tech giants are likely to become significant landlords with technology being expected to deliver real-time pricing of offices (81 per cent agree). They also predict that superior office tech will lead to occupiers being happy to pay a higher price for their space (83 per cent agree).

European tech experts also expect significant changes to the logistics sector with 92 per cent agreeing that autonomous vehicles have the potential to significantly change the location of distribution warehouses, 85 per cent agreeing that intelligent buildings will reduce the amount of warehouse space overall and 79 per cent agreeing that drones will increasingly provide “last mile logistics” deliveries.

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