Property sector should get ready for large-scale tech adoption by 2020, Osborne Clarke report says

March 2, 2018

The property sector will be transformed by emerging technologies such as driverless cars, robots and 3D printing, according to new research commissioned by international legal firm Osborne Clarke.

Harnessing these and other technologies could also help meet some of the challenges the industry faces such as the housing shortage and urban planning, the research says. 
Osborne Clarke, which employs more than 500 people at its Bristol office, commissioned FTI Consulting to gauge the opinions of more than 550 technology experts across the UK, France, Germany and The Netherlands on the scale of challenges, disruption and opportunities that tech innovations will bring to the property industry in the 2020s.

The message to the sector in the report Future proof real estate – is the property sector ready for the 2020s? was clear – it should be prepared for large-scale adoption of key tech trends such as big data (agreed by 73%), 3D printing (7%), wearable devices/tech (69%) within just two years.

Some 82% of the experts also believe the tech industry should play a key role in influencing the built environment.

Bristol-based Osborne Clarke partner and head of real estate and infrastructure Conrad Davies, pictured, 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 the sector’s ability to address key challenges facing the property sector including housing shortages and the rise of ecommerce and urban logistics. 

Some 82% believe that innovation can help solve housing shortages by accelerating delivery – wit 84 % saying this could be through greater utilisation of limited spaces, delivering cost effective housing (78%) and delivering greater density at key locations (82%).

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

In terms of student accommodation, innovations that save students time and money will have the most impact. VR viewings (72%), energy consumption and cost appropriation (68%), and monitoring behaviour to improve overall management (also 68%) 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%). They also predict that superior office tech will lead to occupiers being happy to pay a higher price for their space (83%).

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

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