Construction and real estate have traditionally been related but distinct industries. The boundaries between the two, and also building management and maintenance will become increasingly blurred, as radical changes in construction impacts the underlying economics of real estate. A range of technologies will enable us to do things differently, but also compel us to do different things.

The emerging landscape is one of new techniques, new collaborations and radical change. Traditional roles are secondary to what organisations have the capacity, resource, desire and strategy to accomplish. Fundamental though to protect and grow revenue streams is a technology strategy that embraces every aspect of innovation.

The connected digital era, and the imminent intelligent era would appear to render the existing value void. At best, existing practices are poorly aligned with future possibilities. For one, making infrastructure and design decisions years or even months before occupancy no longer appears sustainable, given the emerging strategic roles that buildings are playing. Cost, often the driver of many building decisions, cannot suffice as the premier factor in an era where buildings are being asked to do more.

DAC Beachcroft's wide ranging involvement in the Construction sector, combined with our knowledge of technology, creates a depth of understanding to support construction businesses as they respond to the new opportunities that technology brings.

New approaches

Modular construction is an emerging trend which enables more affordable, accessible and faster building. It also offers flexibility for the occupants; responding to changes in family size and budget. Google has started a new modular construction initiative, currently just in Canada, of timber housing. Ilke in the UK, in the early stages of growth, can already build 2000 modular homes a year.

3D and 4D printing will also have an impact. Icon, in the U.S, has 3D printed a home for $10,000 in 48 hours. At maximum speed, they believe they can build a 600 to 800 square-foot home in just 24 hours for $4,000 or less1. High-tech 3D printed modular housing units are forecast to account for up to 30% of new construction by the mid 2020s2, while Dubai plans for 25% of new buildings to be constructed using 3D printing by 2025, reducing labour by 70% and cutting costs by 90% across different sectors3.

More than 7,000 robots are forecast to work in construction by 2025, with the worldwide market for construction robotics expected to reach $226m over six years4. One such example involves Fastbrick Robotics. After multiple iterations, the company's Hadrian X end-to-end bricklaying robot can now autonomously build a fully liveable, 180-square meter home in under three days5.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the digital representation of processes and physical characteristics that comprise a building. It could form the basis of some more radical construction business models when businesses in different disciplines collaborate to create direct to consumer propositions.

BIM data can also be used to create digital twins. A digital twin – a digitalised copy of a building – allows users or other stakeholders to simulate any plans for improvement or retrofit before physically implementing them6 , thus establishing and potentially resolving issues before they happen in the physical world. Successful deployment will require enhanced ecosystem collaboration, since investment in digital twin capabilities during the capital expenditure phase will increase value and benefits during the operating expenditure phase, assuming they are standardised and embedded into design and construction.

Data-visualisation tools and mixed reality could similarly be used to access information during the use of a given building. BIM technology layered with internal sensors could allow not just for pre-emptive repairs7, but also suggest ways forward to improve the energy efficiency of the building, for example, or how best to reconfigure for a given need.

This will impact the whole value chain, attracting interest throughout the ecosystem. For example, one proptech system called PRODA is testing a system with Knight Frank that '...harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to instantly capture and consolidate versions of your data8.' By standardising the data, one of the major barriers for digitising the wider property market is removed. Of interest to a wide range of players, from construction companies, asset managers, real estate lenders and investment brokers to facility managers, such apps could soon form a significant part of both how we work in the industry as well as who we work with.

If such collaborations are to flourish, building appropriate data architectures is key. This could include data from sensors embedded in existing assets that then help guide the design of new and future assets. Such a shift would require the industry to change its approach, management and culture as well as data protection, security and governance structures9. 'Data lakes' can help provide consistent access to data for stakeholders, even if access is 'graded,' to ensure appropriate usage.

With the Internet of Things (IoT ) growing twice as fast as social and computergenerated data10, it is rapidly becoming a key driver of future business. The IoT is an obvious shared platform between digital twins, BIM and building sensors. 13% of all organisations implementing IoT projects already use digital twins, while another 62% are either in the process of establishing digital twins or plan to do so11. Sophisticated sensors and real time analytics are in the early stages of revolutionising the industry. Since the IoT is an architecture on which other more advanced technologies can be built, as well as acting as the key conduit of future data, it is vital that businesses look at how and where they could use it to drive efficiency, differentiate service and craft new propositions.


1 Source: Business Insider, 2018

2 Source: AFCEA, 2018

3 Source: World Economic Forum, 2018

4 Source: Robotics Business Review, 2019

5 Source: Singularity Hub, 2019

6 Source: Information Age, 2018

7 Source: Forbes, 2018

8 Source: Property Investor Today, 2018

9 Source: World Economic Forum, 2018

10 Source: IBM, retrieved 2018

11 Source: TechHQ, 2019

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