Breaking the Black Mirror – Embracing PropTech for a futureproofed industry

15 March 2019

Rupert Parker looks at how our industry can embrace innovation to create more futureproofed buildings in an evolving world.

During my time working as an office agent in the City an increasingly large number of tenants looking for a new office would ask questions such as: ‘Can we have a dedicated 100MBPS line’? ‘Are there bookable meeting rooms available to tenants in the building?’ ‘How flexible can we be on the length of lease?’

In the majority of cases this type of question couldn’t be answered on the spot as they were not issues that landlords had considered prior to delivering office space to the market. While it is true that our industry hasn’t yet been markedly affected by the wave of technology that has hit other sectors, the world is changing. Advances in consumer electronics has led to an ‘on-demand’ economy which is constantly changing the way we live daily and resulting in expectations from our real estate that were not an issue five years ago.

Furthermore, this rate of change is quickening, and those who want to be successful in this evolution of real estate must change alongside it; not only knowing the answers to questions being asked, but anticipating what the next question will be. For example, those that entered the co-working market in 2010, when there only 21,000 users of co-working space worldwide, are on the whole much stronger in their offer and market share than those who were late to what is now a hugely successful party, with a 56-fold increase to almost 1.2 million in 2017.

Over the last few years, I’ve heard comments that the growing wave of PropTech seems a bit too ‘Black Mirror’. However, from my point of view that is short-sighted. The ability of technology to relieve our process-driven workload, deepen our knowledge, enhance our advice and ultimately improve our real estate is remarkable and its impact on our daily lives will only deepen.

From products that plug into a building’s BMS to give insights into the efficiencies of the assets within the building and ultimately enhance a PPM schedule, to CRM systems that monitor Outlook and score client relationships, there is a technology out there for almost every inefficient or difficult task. There will not be seven years of bad luck waiting for those in the industry who smash through the fears surrounding technology, and use it to innovate and drive forward the real estate sector into Industry 4.0.

Whilst the ‘I’ word makes many businesses shiver - thoughts of piling cash into unpredictable ventures and haemorrhaging hard earned profits – GVA’s Futureproofing service acts as an informed and knowledgeable innovation partner aiming to create a safe haven of innovation without the risk of disrupting the overall business.

Apart from creating better buildings through innovation, the real estate industry must continue evolving in order to appeal to the upcoming generation of future real estate leaders. Recent stats highlighted that 62% of millennials have considered starting their own business and I would speculate that this percentage is higher for those in the property industry. I am noticing an exodus of talent from the property industry to the ‘proptech’ firms. If we don’t retain these forward thinking individuals they could eventually defect to the ‘proptech’ movement or set up themselves. What better way to engage this group and drive forward industry evolution than through assignment to projects where they can develop innovate solutions for clients?

If we as an industry fail to get on board the technology train on time, we will be left standing on a cold platform in the rain, needing to buy a very expensive replacement ticket that will get us to our destination a lot later than everyone else. We are at a junction where we can drive the direction of the future of real estate towards one that is efficient, innovative and fit for purpose in an evolving world (in other words; futureproofed). We must not miss this opportunity.