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Rethinking the cities of tomorrow

Building communities with an innovation-driven approach to real estate

In today’s rapidly shifting world, how people live, work, play and learn are constantly being redefined by innovative thinking and new models of urban planning. Real estate companies are looking for ways to create communities that are bigger than the sum of their parts.

This concept of placemaking is articulated in our Emerging Trends in Real Estate report as an evolution of the industry’s recent focus on creating communities. It’s about creating a culture and environment that provide people with things to do throughout the day and into the night.

Across Canada, technology is helping take placemaking to the next level, from Vancouver’s expansion of free WiFi access to encourage connectivity to Calgary’s introduction of Civic Innovation YYC—an innovation lab focused on reimagining municipal services. In Toronto, Sidewalk Labs—a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet—recently won a request for proposal to turn a part of the city’s waterfront into an integrated smart city. On a larger scale, the federal government recently challenged all municipalities to become more innovative as part of its Smart Cities Challenge.

As cities move to reinvent themselves, it’s important to define how you’ll contribute to the evolution. And you can start by focusing on innovation, customers and the power of data.

Innovate boldly

Disruption isn’t coming to the real estate industry—it’s already here. To stay relevant, you need to become your own disruptor. Embrace innovation and use it to redefine every aspect of your operations, including how you design, build, manage and maintain properties and communities.

Many companies will need to shift their culture radically in order to encourage such innovation. This will take visionary leadership, combined with a realignment of people, processes, incentive programs and supportive technologies.

Central to this change will be building workforces for the future. But according to our CEO Survey, only 10% of global real estate CEOs are concerned about the speed of technological change—compared with 38% in all industries. And our Canadian CEO Survey insights show close to half of all CEOs find it hard to attract the right digital talent. It’s important to put a talent strategy in place to help you find the right people with the right skills to realize the benefits of rapidly evolving technologies.

For example, Toronto’s Sidewalk Labs project is expected to create a new benchmark for integrating urban planning, real estate development and innovative technologies. While still in the planning phase, Sidewalk Labs’ vision should be seen not as an experiment but as a catalyst for transformation.

Design connected experiences

People are no longer interested in the status quo. Their experiences with Amazon, Google and other innovative companies have opened their eyes to what's possible in terms of personalized and connected services. As a result, they’re demanding more from every organization they do business with.

Determining how the customer experience could evolve is a critical starting point for real estate companies that want to reimagine the future. Where people live, where they work, where they learn, how they commute, where they shop, what technologies they use: these are all expected to evolve over time. The more you understand this potential evolution, the better you’ll be at crafting offerings that align to future needs.

For example, in a world where autonomous vehicles are expected to become the norm, communities will be designed to put humans first; this will require fewer parking lots, narrower roads and more space for sidewalks and bike lanes. What’s more, office space is now being created to offer greater flexibility, shared co-working spaces, open-concept designs, quiet areas, collaboration zones and teleconferencing technology.

Connectivity is also an important area of differentiation in the housing market. Developers are designing properties with smart elements in mind, whether it’s security, entertainment, lighting, appliances or temperature regulation.

Unlock data possibilities

In today’s society, everything is becoming more connected: people, products, places, communities—even entire cities. With this increasing level of connectivity comes a wealth of data you and other organizations can use to fuel your future planning and decision making.

To make the most of this data, you need to know what information you have and how to use it effectively. But as recent events show, there are many issues and concerns around how data will be secured, used, analyzed and governed. It’s important to proactively understand and manage cybersecurity and privacy risks, which are increasingly front of mind with the public.

The retail sector continues to be disrupted by changing consumer expectations and the growth of online shopping. As a result, landlords are looking to data analytics to determine new rental models, deliver new insights about tenants and improve operations. It’s all about finding creative solutions to take advantage of the opportunities in your evolving markets.

While the possibilities unlocked by better data collection and analytics are significant, more connectivity often brings more risks. Develop a reliable plan for managing any data collected, including governance, security and privacy, ownership, access rights and recovery mechanisms.

Laying the foundation

In a world that’s constantly being redefined, real estate companies need to be among the first to imagine what the future might look like to help lay a foundation on which people, communities and cities can thrive.

It’s not a simple task. Start now to not only help shape the future of the industry in Canada but also make sure you’re well positioned to compete and be the disruption.

Contact us

Frank Magliocco

Frank Magliocco

Real Estate Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 228 4228

Miriam Gurza

Miriam Gurza

Managing Director, Real Estate Consulting Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8143

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