Despite the ongoing pandemic taking its toll on the global economy, some sectors within the construction industry found the socially distanced conditions conducive to growth and used the opportunity to push innovation forward. Digital offerings proved to be particularly resilient to a restricted economy, even thriving under the stay-at-home orders.
Aside from the streaming networks, delivery services, and remote working solutions, aspects of construction and property technology (contecth/proptech) saw consi- derable advancement over the course of 2020 and 2021. With €27 billion of venture capital injected into proptech companies globally last year – a 28% increase from the previous year – the industry seems confident that techno- logy is central to the future of real estate and construction. Looking to 2022, insights from industry experts across the world point to the following as the most likely contech and proptech trends for the coming year:

Virtual property inspection
With so many of us stuck indoors over the course of 2020 and 2021, the concept of remotely viewing property is no longer considered inferior to seeing the real thing. With virtual viewing technology advancing all the time, the process of home buying, for example, will become far easier. Not only will 3D representations made in graphical engines such as Unreal allow potential buyers a chance to virtually walk around a future build, but they allow instan- taneous customization. With the click of a mouse, interior fit outs can be changed, wall colours can be previewed, and decor adjusted. As well as enabling the property leasing and buying pro- cess, remote viewing tech has been used over the cour- se of the pandemic to inspect construction sites and the progress of projects. This technology is likely to continue to be iterated on and improved, allowing construction to become more streamlined.he Kirby team operates on the IPD, or integrated project delivery, model that prioritises early contractor engagement to encourage stakeholder buy-in. This buy-in ensures better quality input from the pre-construction stage.

Blockchain integration
Thanks to the immutable but fully public nature of blockchains like Ethereum, trustless agreements can be set up between agents and real estate professionals. These ‘smart contracts’ mean transactions can be made without middlemen acting in between. Instead, smart contracts are specially coded to fulfill when specific digital or real-world conditions are met. In terms of the latter, trusted third parties called Oracles can be used to ensure conditions are satisfied.

While this form of contract agreement will take time to implement, the incorruptible nature of these blockchain networks means real estate interest in the sector will con- tinue to grow.

Increased use of digital twins
With many office workers still reluctant to go back to the office, encouragement to do so could come from the in- creased use of digital twins. These like-for-like digital versions of properties provide asset owners the opportunity to create safe working en- vironments, with the ability to monitor metrics such as the concentration of people in one area and airflow. Digital twins will therefore reassure that offices and retail spaces are not only properly monitored but also sustai- nable, allowing a fine-grain visualisation of energy use and efficiency data.

Dan Drogman, the CEO of Smart Space, believes visuali- sing spaces and the data proptech provides will be neces- sary to drive demand back to returning to the office.

Retail focus on sustainable solutions
With a renewed focus on social responsibility and tackling the climate crisis, it will no longer just be office landlords that see ESG responsibilities as an opportunity for growth.

Retail landlords, too, will likely begin to adopt propte- ch that allows for the real-time measuring and control of energy use. This will be driven both from a desire to com- mit to sustainability but also as a response to consumer demand. David Fuller-Watts, the managing director of Mallcomm, a retail proptech platform, believes shoppers are becoming increasingly energy conscious, and this is bleeding into their shopping preferences.

With sustainability a hot topic, conscientious customers will be more likely to choose to frequent shopping cen- tres and retail parks that demonstrate responsible action regarding carbon emissions.
Proptech provides these spaces the opportunity to moni- tor and address these issues.

Predictive technologies
Big data, algorithms, and predictive analytics have revo- lutionised multiple industries, and real estate and con- struction are no different. The same technology that is used to recommend an artist in Spotify or ‘something else you might like’ on Amazon is now being used for con- struction projects and for real estate management.

Gathered from smartphones and our online presence, the data now available is enormous and, when used in conjun- ction with predictive software, can be used to help identi- fy behavioural patterns.
In terms of proptech, this means helping consumers find their perfect home, allowing them and the agent to sort the wheat from the chaff. In construction, it can help pre- vent over-ordering, predict supply problems, and manage site safety. Lastly, big data also provides the opportunity to create safer, more energy-efficient workspaces, with analytics learning how people behave in spaces and adju- sting the environment accordingly.

Proptech is also going to see more adoption when it co- mes to planning permissions and project oversight. With a combination of the pandemic and Brexit causing a slow- down in off-plan sales, proptech will likely be increasingly used to find new ways to attract buyers both domestically and abroad.

With so much time spent at home, domestic construction has seen a growing demand for home renovation and ex- tensions. This has led to planning permission systems get- ting backlogged worldwide.

Looking to alleviate some of this pressure is plantech, a spur of proptech that is expected to grow considerably in 2022. Plantech uses data analytics, digitisation, AI, and automation to make land-use planning more streamlined. Accessible via apps, plantech can also help in integrating and engaging communities in urban planning and appro- val processes.

ConstructionTech columnist Carol Tallon is the CEO of Property District and advises innovators, investors and members of the traditional industry on urban planning, property, construction and smart city technology trends through Proptech Ireland.

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