Is the Built World getting it right? No one knows, and that’s OK!

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Does anyone here know what they are doing? It’s a serious question and one not intended to offend. I am genuinely interested to know if, away from the public-facing nature of our day-to-day working lives, the goals, strategies, plans and targets, anyone actually has a proper grasp on how best to respond to the changing world we are living in. And, as a result, the creation and maintenance of the built environment within it.

I am not sure that many, if any, could say in good faith that they’ve got a decent handle on it yet. A bold statement but one I am pretty confident to stand by. And I’ll tell you why. 

I have spent the past three months interviewing some of the biggest names across both the global real estate and tech sectors ahead of CREtech London and not one of them knows whether or not they are doing the right thing in response to the seismic shifts going on around us. And that’s not just OK. It is necessary for progress. 

From machine learning and AI to the future of work and from decarbonisation and sustainability to delivering future proofed spaces and places, there is an awful lot of testing, trialling, tweaking and trying going on. And, in this particular moment in time, that is what it means to be leading the pack. Being in a position to impart knowledge, advise and inspire right now doesn’t mean having all, or even any, of the answers. It means being prepared to find some. And that takes courage. 

What all of this also means, by the way, that innovative thought within the real estate sector is skyrocketing at a pace I have certainly never seen before. Yes, it is a challenging market. Yes, innovation budgets have been cut and yes, VC funding has plummeted. But more fool anyone who mistakenly sees this as a widespread slowing of innovation, tech or otherwise, across the property industry.

If anything, the opposite is the case. In many instances this is being driven by necessity. As Raj Singh of JLL Spark said of AI in his speaker spotlight interview “there is a tidal wave coming and we want to be riding it rather than submerged by it”. There is also a burst of activity going on off the back of a genuine desire to do things differently.  Take Derwent London’s chief executive Paul Williams for example and the company’s hopes to power half of its London portfolio using its latest asset, a Glasgow-based solar farm. Then there is Earl’s Court Development Company’s Head of Urban Futures, Peter Runacres. Not content to let the months and years fly by until the London regeneration project comes to fruition, his plans to launch a climate and clean tech hub at the site are imminent. 

I have also spoken to the gamechangers, the people within real estate well known for thinking differently. The likes of Avison Young’s Kat Hanna and the UKGBC’s Smith Mordak, who have no qualms calling out innovation pitfalls including the overinvestment of capital into “longshot tech” and widespread greenwashing. These are the people who are not afraid to stand up and speak out when the wider sector is caught in a tailspin of “everythingwashing”. And we need them. 

I could go on but there is nothing I can say here that will do justice to the words, thoughts and actions of these people themselves, all of whom will be speaking at CREtech London this week. 

We are bringing together the big names and the decision makers from across the sector to reveal how they are making it work in challenging, unknown times. How they are positioning themselves for the future - a future we can’t escape from. AI is here. Climate change is real. Social value is critical.

This will not be two days of pitches and promises but rather of action and strategy. An opportunity to see how real estate companies are diversifying for the next era. The ground beneath us is shifting and, as I so boldly said at the start of this post, no one really knows how best to prepare and respond. But there are those out there prepared to make changes, take risks, go first, test, trial, report, lead and inspire. And thank goodness for that. 

Join us this week at CREtech London to experience more insights from the brightest minds that are devoted to Reimagining the Built World.

- Emily

Emily Wright

Head of Content


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