What’s Smart, Green and Can’t Be Ignored?

It’s more than a buzz word. It’s more than click-bait.  It’s more than fear-mongering and the responsibility doesn’t fall at one single person’s doorstep.  These statements aren’t hot takes; they are indisputable – that much is all too clear now.

In an article published by Unissu on Infabode, Sonny Masero makes a call to action for PropTech to work with Clean Tech as a matter of urgency, as we have ‘less than ten years to act before the damage to our planet’s ecosystem reach the point where it becomes irreversible.’  This rallying cry is particularly important to the property industry because ‘[m]ost of the electricity and energy we consume is used in buildings.  This is one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change.’  To put this into context, over 50 tonnes of CO2 is produced when building an average UK house.  The number rises for apartments.  On top of this,40% of UK emissions come from households.  That’s just households.  Now consider the office buildings,restaurants, shops, et al.  Over 50% of these emissions are produced by heating, electricity and waste.  So, it stands to reason that property developers, in both commercial and residential sectors, hold the keys to influencing the general populace in our quest for sustainability.  But, I repeat the earlier sentiment – the responsibility doesn’t fall at one single person’s doorstep.  The property industry can certainly help to set a new standard, but it relies on the application of green innovations from homeowners, tenants, office workers, companies, and so on.

Thankfully, the wheels are in motion; they maybe just need a little more traction.  Masero notes that technology powerhouses have dedicated significant investment to Clean-PropTech solutions, such as Google’s Startups Accelerator for the Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft’s AI for Earth and AI for Good, and MetaProp’s portfolio of companies such as Aquicore, Blueprint Power,
Connect-Homes and Enertiv.  The Times recently distributed an independent publication by Raconteur – Future of Proptech.  This collection of articles includes Nicolette Loizou’s Giving Owners the Keys to Sustainability.  Accompanied by a dramatic photograph of a heavily flooded street in York and an alarming graph that demonstrates the upward trajectory of the projected UK residential CO2 emissions that contradicts claims that we are on the right path to tackling dangerous climate change, is Loizou’s case for sustainability being a collaborative endeavour between technology and humans, and between property managers and occupiers.  Loizou points to arbnco software that ‘analyses,tracks and benchmarks building energy consumption data to enable organisations to identify energy savings and aid retro-fitting.’  Sensorberg, a German PropTech company, is introducing technology that can provide similar information to residents.  Some of the technology is automated and some requires input from occupants, again highlighting that the importance of the human element proves that PropTech should be considered the tool, but we are the solution.  In reference to the role landlords, property managers and office managers will play in the roll out of this type of software, Freddie Pritchard-Smith, Chief Executive of We Are Savvy, is quoted as saying ‘We believe that a smart building requires bothhuman connectivity and technology to successfully analyse the performance of a building.’  Loizou follows this sentiment up by concluding ‘Proptech may be a vital tool in the battle against global warming, but to win the war humans must occupy the frontline.’

A commercial feature by Infraspeak in Future of PropTechechoes Loizou’s sentiments, suggesting that an obstacle facing PropTech and its mainstream adoption is confusion as to the contextual definition of ‘smart’:‘[F]acilities managers may invest in LED lighting that can be turned on and off using smartphones, thinking it will make their buildings smart.  But in fact, LED lights themselves are not smart unless facilities managers are monitoring the lighting system, collecting data and using insights to make informed decisions on future maintenance events.’  The suggestion here is that smart is a three step process – the availability of technology, the physical implementation and the receptiveness of the humans who will ‘interact and deal with technology on a daily basis who need to be aware of how smart can benefit them.’  Sticking with the example of LED lighting that can be controlled from a smartphone, the solution is only as smart as the people who use the system effectively.  Some residents may see it as an opportunity to leave lights on for pets or turn them on when they are away from their home to make it look occupied.  The smartness therefore relies on the resident not simply leaving the lights on and forgetting about them.  From a commercial perspective, smart LED lighting couldn’t be considered smart if people leave lights on in conference rooms not being used.

Many PropTech innovations may lead you to believe that smartphones are the answer to marrying PropTech with CleanTech; however,according to a study conducted by McMaster University in Canada in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT)industry is expected to be responsible for over 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2040 – up from just approximately 1% in 2007, with smartphones exceeding the carbon footprint of desktop computers, laptops and displays this year.  So, maybe looking to smartphones to solve the problem of carbon emissions isn’t as black and white as it may seem.  Sure, it can help reduce domestic energy consumption and even promote sustainable lifestyles, but at what cost?  When the solution becomes the problem, where do we go?  The energy used to produce and operate devices is expected to create 764 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent this year – over three times the amount in 2007.  Emissions from smartphones themselves is expected to reach 125 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent this year.  When one considers that the UK produces approximately 229.2 megatons of carbon dioxide from cars per year, it is clear that the ICT industry should be held to the same standard as the industries it is expected to help go green.  The article in Anthropocene Magazine notes that several studies have found that less than 1% of smartphones are recycled. As seems to be a trend here, the responsibility must be shared.  Since 2007, Apple has released at least one new iPhone per year.  Apple has received much bad press – deserved or not – for the durability of their devices, in particular,the fixed batteries.  Juggernauts like Apple should perhaps place greater emphasis on long-term quality than quantity,or revise their commitment to fixed batteries. At the same time, consumers should endeavour to curb their obsession with having the latest [insert manufacturer and model here], or at the very least, recycle their previous device.

It could be argued, then, that CleanTech and PropTech can only go so far without each other.  CleanTech needs PropTech to fulfil its potential and PropTech needs CleanTech to protect its reputation and ensure its goals line up with the planet’s most pressing crisis.  While this union of industries seems inevitable, education is an equally important part of the puzzle.  The promotion of autonomous products gives consumers an idea of passivity or absent responsibility.  This could set a dangerous precedent, whereby products are only used to a fraction of their sustainable potential.

More Blog Posts

How Ethical is Ethical Investing?

Home REIT, a real estate investment trust, is planning to let accommodation on 20-30 year leases to charities, housing associations and other regulated organisations that receive housing benefit from the local or central government to provide accommodation for the homeless, while aiming to provide a return of 7.5% per annum to investors over the medium term.

The City of Tomorrow

Cities have changed and adapted throughout history, though for many of us, probably not a great deal in our personal experience, save for some beloved chains leaving (RIP Woolworths). But the high street has long been suffering from the popularity of online retail and the current pandemic landed some even heavier blows, forcing a reevaluation of how cities can benefit us and vice versa.

Pandemic Makes PropTech Impossible to Ignore

Just as FinTech companies cashed in on the uncertainty, distrust and anger at established financial systems in the wake of the 2007-08 crisis, PropTech companies could be set for a similar redefining role in the post-COVID property industry.‍

We find ourselves in a defining moment for urban transport.

With the government greenlighting rented electric scooter trials ahead of schedule, we may be taking the first steps towards the electric vehicle revolution sooner than expected.

The Price of a Stamp

This month saw the announcement of The Great Big British Stamp Duty Holiday (at least I think that’s what its formal title is?!).

Building Towards a Better Future…In Principle

It’s clear that the property industry is going to be integral to the post-COVID recovery.

COVID-19 Summary for Businesses and Next Steps

I hope this finds you well in these trying times. We all like to think we are well-prepared to deal with the challenges thrown at us by the business landscape but then something like COVID-19 tears up the rulebook

Turn Customers Into Salespeople – Pass It On

Planning for the People with Place Score

We all want to feel like we are part of a community, but how often do we feel our voice is really heard? Enter Place Score: a groundbreaking tool that captures human-centric data to help governments, local authorities and developers design neighbourhoods with the residents’ input at the forefront of decisions.

A guide to Corporate Responses to COVID-19

With coronavirus having an unprecedented impact on businesses of all sectors and sizes, many companies are having to take unfamiliar measures to ensure they are in as strong a position as possible when normality eventually resumes. We have outlined some tips to help minimise the damage caused by the pandemic.

Coronavirus Hits Housing Market

The wave of momentum that followed the general election and relative closure to the Brexit saga is already feeling like a distant memory, with the coronavirus outbreak wreaking havoc on a multitude of industries.

Tech Tock – Microsoft Set Deadline to Achieve Carbon Negative Status and What It Means for Real Estate

It seems that tech powerhouses, such as Apple, Amazon and now Microsoft are quickly realising that if they don’t put sustainability at the top end of their agenda, buying the latest iPhone, Echo Dot or Surface Pro is going to be the least of people’s worries.

Budding Buyers Buoyed By First Homes Scheme

In a bid to create more homeowners, the Government has proposed First Homes – a new scheme that will provide new build homes for local residents at a 30% market discount rate.

Turn Customers Into Salespeople – Pass It On

Many people would consider a positive review of a company from a trusted friend the most earnest form of marketing.

What’s Smart, Green and Can’t Be Ignored?

It’s more than a buzz word. It’s more than click-bait. It’s more than fear-mongering and the responsibility doesn’t fall at one single person’s doorstep. These statements aren’t hot takes; they are indisputable – that much is all too clear now. Articles published by Unissu and Raconteur highlight the necessity of collaboration in the quest to create a smart, green future. The shared message is clear: the responsibility doesn’t fall at one single person’s doorstep. The property industry can certainly help to set a new standard, but it relies on the application of green innovations from homeowners, tenants, office workers, companies, and so on.

The Roaring Twenties Part II?

‘The noughties’ is plagued by innuendo. ‘The 10s’ just sounds far too abridged to constitute a decade. ‘The Twenties’, however, at least sounds like the millennium’s first era, in much the same way Antony Slumbers suggested ‘the Roaring Twenties was the first real decade of the 20th Century.’ And so here we stand, 100 years later, in the early days of the 2020s, on the precipice of what some scholars, such as Klaus Schwab, are labelling the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But should we expect another boom period or heed the warning of history and prepare for the grinding halt that the Wall Street Crash brought the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties to in 1929? In listing 20 changes to the real estate industry to expect in the 2020s, Antony Slumbers suggests we should be optimistic.

Like, Comment and Buy a New House on Facebook

In almost 16 years, Facebook has changed from a way for teenagers to plan trips to town and cast a wider social net than they would know what to do with to a commercial powerhouse that is rife with targeted advertising and occasional photos of people you no longer recognise. Now, users can search for properties to buy or rent through Facebook Marketplace, with property portals such as OnTheMarket using it to advertise homes. With almost 45 million Facebook users in the UK, the expansion of Marketplace from seller of sofas to purveyor of properties is sure to have invited attention from the offices of Zoopla and Rightmove; however, with Zoopla drawing 50 million visits per month and Rightmove 127.5 million, it is unlikely they will be usurped overnight. That being said, developers looking to advertise new builds may feel inclined to embrace the platform to maximise their reach.

Farming at 140ft

At a time when so many sectors are under scrutiny for the detrimental impact their practices will have on future generations, it’s encouraging to see members of our industry embracing creative solutions to combat the environmental crisis, with urban farming proving the sky truly is the limit for sustainable living.

Google Parent Company Receives Green Light for Green Living

TechCrunch has reported that Alphabet Inc.’s urban innovation subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs, is set to proceed with its smart city development on the Toronto waterfront, despite backlash from a public wary of the company’s use of personal data. Why? Because Alphabet Inc. is the parent company of data consumer en masse, Google.

A 2020 Vision of Customer Service

As 2019 draws to a close, so too does the window for 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner becoming a prophecy. There are no flying cars, no android war and things still happen during daylight. That being said, Acquire’s forecast for customer service trends in 2020 suggest artificial intelligence is making significant, but thankfully less dystopian, strides.

The Rental Market

The number of homes in the ‘build to rent’ sector are increasing by 20% year on year, with an expected 1.7 million units estimated for when the market reaches full maturity

HBF Survey News

In light of some recent bad press concerning the customer service of some national developers, it is worth reminding ourselves of the value of a customer who feels genuinely cared for.

Hotel Offers Living Space

With Virgin Hotels developing a 40 storey hotel in Miami, 15 floors of which will offer furnished residential spaces, are mixed use, co-living developments becoming a popular alternative to apartment buildings?

Developers Affected By Crossrail

Developers working on projects on the Elizabeth Line can be forgiven for looking through their hands at any news mentioning Crossrail, as positive progress updates seem to be diluted by concerns or threats to the high capacity railway.

Free Money

News from Scandinavia with implications on lenders and spenders rubs off on UK mortgagees, as long-term, fixed rate, low interest loans are offered to buyers. Is this good news for buyers or worrying news for the economy?

A Demand for Affordable Living

Affordable living in London with a long-term outlook? Tenants today, homeowners tomorrow. London Living Rent and London Shared Ownership boosted by new plans.