A New Decade - through the eyes of a young surveyor
Standing on the cusp of a new decade, I wonder what our profession will look like in 10-years’ time and how the future will pan out for young professionals like me.
It’s becoming evident that newly qualified surveyors cannot afford to focus on individual specialisms, as we continue to evolve towards a more ‘client-needs’ service and away from a single service model. I know we will have to be more aware of and understand the wider issues and demands faced by both investors and occupiers and adapt what we do accordingly.
There are a number of ‘hot topics’ which will prove to have a significant bearing on our sector and on the future of young professionals in the real estate sector. For me, these include...
Sustainability and the environment will be an even greater driver of policy making and contractual obligations in the future. This will be the single biggest difference between my generation and our predecessors, because environmental factors will change how we think, the strategic recommendations we make and how we perform our tasks.
MEES*, the quiet herald of the green revolution, is a clear example of how the green agenda led to greater legislation. Many believe that MEES will be remembered as the minimum standards which become progressively more stringent. No longer will ‘last minute fixes’, such as changes to LED lighting, be sufficient. Despite the legislation putting the onus on Landlords, we are already witnessing changes to lease obligations and wording of covenants determining if and when tenants are to undertake MEES work and pay for the associated costs as part of potential repairs and/or dilapidations.
We are now familiar with the notion of green value premiums on rental and capital values. Perhaps future occupational and investor demands will focus more assiduously on energy efficiency and an asset’s EPC credentials. The impact this will have on rental benchmarks, projected running costs, ‘desirable’ lease lengths and obligations could well reflect a greater awareness of future energy prices and corporate social objectives. Will there be an onus on Valuers factoring green premiums in their valuations? How important will detailed knowledge on the topic be to these professionals?
Email and video conferencing are now old news. Drones are regularly deployed in property inspections: virtual reality is already used widely by developers to woo potential investors and occupiers: augmented reality is being considered more frequently in real estate marketing. The increasing penetration of technology will inevitably force us to develop new skillset, as well as adapt how we work. The question is will technology help us, or outperform us? Many argue that technology will eliminate mistakes stemming from human error - but who will be blamed when Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes a mistake?
Personally, I believe that technology will enhance and aid our operations, rather than threaten us. But our next biggest challenge will be thinking (ethically) about how to regulate and maintain these increasingly capable systems and how long they need to be tested in practice, before becoming ‘industry standard’. What will we learn from our advances?
There are of course huge benefits in deploying automated predictive systems which draw on historic data – but these are only as good as the quality and quantity of information they can draw on. Building Management Systems (BMS) are a prime example of automated controls only achieving desired outcomes if we actually tell them what to do. The rise of ‘smart buildings’ has already changed how we manage buildings. I hope that technology, which is intrinsically linked to the fabric of buildings, will be better integrated into passive and reactive fire safety systems – something which is at the forefront of all our minds.
AI will help our Valuers and Agents (amongst others) research the market faster – potentially making manual comparable work a thing of the past. Pertinent data retrieval will benefit from faster and more efficient practices, but I suspect human intervention will still be required for verification and qualitative analysis. Perhaps this is AI’s Achilles’ heel – but for how much longer? Will we always need human beings to negotiate the deal? What will landlord/tenant relationships and our management of these, look like in an AI led world?
Reflecting on the Government’s proposed infrastructure plans, there appear to be huge opportunities in almost every corner of our sector. With public spending promises and projections receiving great scrutiny in the lead up to the forthcoming Budget announcement, it will be interesting to evaluate what impact more domestic investment will have on our infrastructure. Perhaps Generation Z surveyors will be involved in far more Compulsory Purchase Order work and all the affiliated services – a clear example of increased opportunities for the private sector in the public sector.
Now that we know that “Brexit Will Get Done” by 31st January 2020, the next question is will a new trade deal with Europe be finalised by the end of 2020?
Will Friday 13th December (the day after the recent election) be remembered as a turnkey date for business, our society, the future of my generation, our attraction to inward investors and our role in the world, or will the machinery of government and the limitations of our politicians render it another false dawn?
So, what will the next decade hold for Generation Z surveyors and what will be demanded of us?
I hope that there will be an increased awareness of our profession and that it becomes more attractive to a more diverse group of people. Diversity, I believe, is one of the biggest challenges our sector faces. Greater diversity will fuel greater collaboration of ideas and generate bottom line benefits. Diversity is more than just thinking about age, gender and race. It’s about background, mindset and cultural inclusivity. Our sector could be more representative of the society we live and work in, as this will help tackle current and future issues.
Equality of entry, with Apprenticeships emerging as a new route into our profession, will increase the diversity of talent entering our profession – hopefully more women and people of different social and cultural backgrounds will be more attracted to our sector.
Our clients are ever-changing, as are their requirements. Perhaps we should drive change more holistically across the board – how we think (e.g. the environment), how we work (in an AI dominated world) and who we are (more diverse and representative). But one thing we must never change is our profession’s preoccupation with delivering a quality service and the transparency of our operations. This must always remain at the very heart of what we do.