Three ways data is disrupting the property sector

Let’s talk numbers.

  1. First, there will be approximately 9 billion people on our earth by 2050, with two-thirds of them living in cities.

  2. Second, the world’s construction accounts for 11% of the world’s GDP, expected to grow to 13.2% by 2020.

  3. Third, depression will be the leading cause of disease by 2030 (WHO)

The property industry is also responsible for between 25 and 40% of the world’s total global greenhouse gas emissions.

If we tally the numbers, we can clearly see that the urban migration and growing cities will require a larger property sector: the world’s cities are seeing an influx of 200,000 new entrants every day . These new residents also require basic social, economic, environmental infrastructure to support their daily needs.

Unless we disrupt our industry, we could end up with cities that are socially isolated, while also significantly increasing global greenhouse gas emissions. Are we ready?

The challenge is, the structure of the property industry makes it difficult to be agile. Long construction timeframes and expensive physical assets that are built-to-last make it harder to pivot and experiment. Large capital costs drive a low risk taking environment. Organisational structures and systems can prohibit new innovation.  The construction industry has been called “The Industry Technology Left Behind”. It’s known to be slow to change.

The construction industry has been called  “The Industry Technology Left Behind” .

The construction industry has been called “The Industry Technology Left Behind”.

Why change?

Well, apart from our increasing lack of capacity to house and creative liveable places for the world’s burgeoning population, there are some pressing practical reasons to shift practices:

  • Low productivity – property industry productivity has remained stagnant over the past 50 years

  • Low profitability – typical margins range from 2-8%

  • High project delays – only 25% of projects come within 10% of the original deadline

  • Dwindling workforce – 54% of construction managers are baby boomers

Increasingly, companies are aware that they need to rethink the way they operate.

But things are moving fast.

Whether it’s 3D printing technology that can build a house in a day, machine learning and predictive analytics to better inform planning decisions or blockchain technology to revolutionise construction finance, there are ever increasing possibilities for change.

Three ways data is transforming the property sector

At the core of all of these technologies is data. Here we’ll explore three ways that data is transforming the property sector:

  • How digital twins are transforming the way we make decisions.

  • How sensors and IOT are increasing efficiency and productivity on construction sites.

  • How leveraging data can build climate resilience into our building models.

1. How digital twins are transforming the way we make decisions

What’s a digital twin? Every time you like, tweet, check-in or post, you are showing the world what you value and contributing to data about places.

A digital twin is essentially a link between a real-world object and its digital representation that is continuously using data from the sensors. All data comes from sensors located on a physical object; this data is used to establish the representation of a virtual object.
— Neighbourlytics
Digital twin of a physical space -    source

Digital twin of a physical space - source

This technology can be used across the planning and construction and building lifecycle in a number of ways: to de-risk feasibility through scenario planning; to facilitate community engagement around current and future scenarios; to save time and cost during the construction process by monitoring progress and outcomes.

Post construction, a digital twin can help owners, managers and users identify and fix problems, transfer knowledge and create a deeper understanding of how people are interacting with their built environment.  

Neighbourlytics creates digital twins of the experience and social life of places from social data, then analyses this information to better inform decision making about places and track change over time.

2. Improving site efficiencies through sensor technology

Sensors and internet-of-things technology (beacons, wifi-networks etc) enable us to monitor the location of movement and activity within a place or a site. For public space planning, this can provide insight into movement patterns and the user-experience of a place.  

Sensor technology can help understand how places are used, not just what people say about them.

Sensor technology can help understand how places are used, not just what people say about them.

On construction sites, sensor technology enables developers to be proactive as opposed to reactive in their planning and execution. This enables construction sites to monitor efficiency and productivity, predict problem areas and highlight areas for improvement.

Sensors can help improve worker and site safety.  Environmental sensing can monitor worksite conditions that could impact site safety, while biometric sensors can help monitor the people working on site.

In addition, 63% of direct worker time on a construction site is spent waiting for materials and equipment, travelling to the location, deciding to take early breaks, choosing how to carry out the work. Through the use of sensors, data and IoT, construction sites can drastically reduce that percentage.

What does that mean?

Less cranes, more open doors.

3. How leveraging data can build climate resilience into our building models

Communities around the world continue to struggle as they experience increasing challenges due to climate challenges, such as rising seas, heat waves and extreme weather. Cities, especially those in high-risk areas, will need to tap into data to understand how critical weather will impact our built environment.

climate change.jpg

Using sensor technology and predictive analytics, we have the opportunity to better understand the possible impacts of extreme weather on our built form. This means we can better prepare for any extreme weather impacts and prioritize resilience in our buildings and infrastructure.

For example, in areas with high seismic activity, sensor data can help predict how long a building would have to stand in order for occupants to leave unharmed. This information optimises building outcomes while increasing human safety in large earthquakes.

Beyond buildings, social data can be used to measure community strength and better understand resilience.  This provides measurement and impact assessment opportunity to measure, and future proof, the industry and our built environment against climate change.

The Opportunity for Disruption

The property industry greatly influences all of life moments – from birthday parties at the local community pool, to the environment’s we spend our working lives and the homes that house us – the property industry is deeply integrated into our lives, but the industry is fragmented, fraught with challenges and is poised for dramatic disruption.

In the face of these challenges, there is hope (and opportunity!). Digital integration and innovative technologies, including the three mentioned here, are poised to disrupt the industry in a positive direction.