Building for the future - trends the real estate sector should be watching closely

09 December 2016



We recently launched our Emerging Trends in Real Estate®: Europe 2017 report in conjunction with the Urban Land Institute, which gathers the views of almost 800 senior real estate leaders from across the sector. In the survey interviews this year this, this particular quote hit home for me;

“The biggest challenge for the European real estate industry, is to plan and build things that people really want to be in, not us, but the generation after us.” Director, pan-European Lender- ETRE Europe 2017

Real estate is a long term business – developments can often take ten years or more, leases often are still signed for 20 plus years, and buildings should be useful for hundreds of years.  Yet the user of buildings needs and expectations are changing at such a fast paces how can the real estate sector build for the future?

Here are three trends that I think the real estate sector should be watching closely.

  1. Design for a sharing economy

    The collaborative economy is growing, partly from practical necessity in the midst of urbanisation and resource scarcity but also because of the changing attitudes to ownership. Assets are not viewed in the same way. For example, many prefer the convenience of a car being available when needed, over the costs and responsibility of maintaining a car which spends most of the time parked in front of our home depreciating in value. Sharing tangible assets whether they be homes, offices, tool sheds or bicycles will all have profound impact on real estate. Not only in how we design and build, but in creating a user-centric industry where successful organisations will use the wealth of data available to deliver ‘real estate as a service’.

    “The real estate industry will engage in socio-demographic changes much more - healthcare, leisure, housing as opposed to retail, offices, industrial” Head of Real Estate, European Insurer - ETRE Europe 201

  2. Health & wellbeing as a norm

    If we think of how we use buildings as a service it then makes sense that health, wellbeing and sustainability will become increasingly important. Whether it is your smartphone, a device on your desk or a wearable device, there are already many ways of monitoring the impact of the environment you are in - physically and increasingly emotionally. This will increase as access and interest grows and building owners will need to meet the needs of increasingly aware and empowered users.

    Another fascinating area is how we can use the built environment to monitor and promote health in our communities. The use of sensors with the right infrastructure could help the vulnerable live independently longer, reducing pressure on an overstretched NHS. Showers, lockers and shared bike schemes at central transport hubs would encourage more commuters to run / cycle reducing carbon emissions, pollution and increasing fitness.  

  3. Technology speeds up change

    As critical as the two trends above are, it is the 8 essential  emerging technologies which will have a profound impact on real estate from robotics and drones in construction through to Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain for investment and all the areas in between. Technology breakthroughs may increase the speed of change even more and whether the real estate sector is currently equipped to respond is probably an issue for other industries as well. The rise of ‘Proptechs’ and interest from technology companies in parts of the real estate sector suggest there is plenty of room for further disruption.

This is not the definitive list of trends impacting the industry, and there is probably not one answer to the challenge to build things people really want to be in. What is key is to understand that how we value real estate is changing – it is no longer simply bricks, mortar and location but the value is  moving towards usability, adaptability and quality of experience of the building.

It makes sense in an increasingly crowded urban world with finite resources that we demand the most from the buildings we use.


Gareth Lewis |  Director, Real Estate
Email  |  +44(0)20 780 45537


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