Five Technologies That Could Change Real Estate Development and Management
Many new technologies are poised to disrupt how cities are planned, how buildings are constructed, what materials are used for construction and how companies operate within their buildings. Of the many innovations that currently exist and will be adopted into real estate projects, an understanding of these five areas is vital for real estate industry participants:
- Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared Vehicles. Vehicles that are advanced through the use of either autonomous, connected, electric or shared (ACES) technologies have a wide range of uses and applications. The level of ACES integration is usually considered to be on a scale of 0-5, with 0 being no automation and 5 being full automation. Currently the scale is somewhere in the 1-2 level range. The legal challenge will be in adopting rules, regulations and developments as vehicles slowly march toward full integration, and in predicting which technologies will first be integrated and which technologies will be integrated in the future. The real estate industry will be impacted in the design of future projects to account for ACES vehicles, such as connectivity, charging stations, parking or pickup/drive-through requirements, as well as in the disruption of the laws, codes, rules and regulations governing these designs that will inevitably have to change to account for ACES demands.
- 3D Printing. A vast number of items is capable of being printed with a 3D printer—from building materials, foods, clothing, prosthetics to nano-sized gears. The size and materials used in 3D printers vary greatly depending upon the product being printed. Three-D printing defies traditional zoning and land use designations as the printers are capable of duplicating industrial processes that may otherwise require a lot of noise, space, hazardous materials and warehousing that is not required by modern 3D printers. These printers are also capable of printing products in areas that would normally not be imagined, such as printing shoes for sale within a mall or portable sales trucks. The key is first understanding the capability, materials and potential risk of each 3D printer application and then deciding if the 3D printing application can be determined within a required zoning or land use designation. Fitting a 3D printing application within an otherwise prohibited area for an industrial or manufacturing application is a challenge to overcome.
- Building Informational Modeling (BIM). Software programs such as Revit® and ArchiCAD® are capable of rendering 3D images of existing or planned developments that can integrate and overlay mechanical, engineering, plumbing, and other items into a working model for identifying development and operational efficiencies. However, these platforms are proprietary and not "interoperable," meaning that they cannot be integrated with each other or other programs to create one working model for development. Unifying platforms for BIM or adding the element of blockchain to the models has the prospect of creating more widespread use of the application by making it cheaper for use and acceptance by all parties, such as municipalities that otherwise could not afford to integrate BIM into their approval process. As these issues develop, planning and advice will be crucial in adopting required capabilities.
- Internet of Things (IOT), Blockchain and Smart Cities. As buildings continue to be constructed or retrofit with internet-connected sensors, buildings themselves will contribute a massive amount of data flow that can be used productively, such as proper flow and pressure of a sewer pipe or traffic counts at an intersection in real time. This "big data" can be used to assist in making macro decisions within a city, such as repair or replacement of pipes, where to invest in water management resources or where to build infrastructure improvements. Additionally, if the flow of data is authenticated with blockchain, trust and reliance can be added to the data stream so that it can be used to assist in developing specific buildings, improving operations based on verifiable concurrency requirements, and reducing risk in developments as measures of service or impact can be analyzed in real time.
- Advancements in Building Materials. Advancements in materials are happening at a rapid rate. Materials such as self-healing concrete and glass and non-steel-based rebar such as basalt or glass fiber reinforced-based materials will have a dramatic effect on developments, including indirect effects such as offering an alternative material to steel, considering the recent tariff war on steel. However, any materials approved by code must be backed by sound companies capable of standing behind product warranties; just because the material may be used in a development does not mean it should or that the startup company supporting the technology will sustain its existence for the long term. A practical approach to understanding the technology available and how it may best be integrated (or not integrated) into a development is key.
Across the real estate industry, participants are assessing the challenges and opportunities presented by these technologies, as well as their degree of adoption and integration into current practices.