By Alex Cakkos
“We shape our buildings, therefore they shape us”- wise words by Winston Churchill on the impact buildings have on us. A statement which is arguably more relevant today than when it was first said.
Since those post war years, arguably the largest changes have come through technology- the home computer, the internet, the mobile phone… the list is endless. All of which have changed how we operate; whether that be the way we interact with each other, conduct business or even think. Undoubtedly technology has an impact, what is often underestimated though is the impact buildings have – environmentally, economically and socially.
To put the impact of buildings in context; environmentally the OECD has suggested the built environment accounts for 30-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of raw material use and between 25-40% of total energy use. Economically, think about the percentage of total GDP which is generated in-doors from sectors such as finance, manufacturing, retail and hospitality. From a social perspective, Dr. Joseph Allen from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health has estimated that humans spend around 90% of their time indoors, having a significant impact on human wellbeing.
The role of buildings is therefore entrenched in society and with that comes many challenges and opportunities. As with many other aspects, technology can be seen as the solution to such challenges and means to capitalise on opportunities.
Perhaps the largest challenges and opportunities for buildings revolve around the environment. Environmental sustainability for buildings is not just about how buildings are constructed but how they are used – where technology is playing an increasing role in everything from construction times through technologies such as 3D printing buildings to energy consumption savings through optimised cooling and ventilation equipment. The benefits of these technologies are not just environmental; financially they offer ways to cut costs and raise productivity for both building managers and occupiers.
Commercially companies have increasingly recognised these gains through the establishment of corporate sustainability policies and practices. The depth of engagement and reach of these policies is staggering. Keppel Land, the highest ranked Real Estate Corporation in Corporate Knight’s 2015 Global 100 sustainability rankings, identifies six key stakeholder groups – Customers, Investors, Employees, Business Partners, Partner Agencies and the Community. Property technology will likely play a role in how companies like Keppel Land engage with their key stakeholders going forward.
This gives a lot of food for thought on the role of technology in addressing the opportunities and challenges faced in the built environment. Undoubtedly we shape our buildings but through the application of technology we can direct how our buildings shape us.