Spaced Out and 5 other mega trends in the property sector

Morocco and Spain (NASA, International S by NASA

Last week I attended the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Building Day in Sydney. One of the notable changes in the professional development events held by the GBCA over the last year has been the broad range of topics impacting upon the design, construction and property industries which are being discussed at these kinds of events – I think this is really great to see as in my view there is a shortage of good professional development and training events available for architects and designers. (Green Building Day is also great for scoring your GreenStar accredited professional CPD points – you can get a whole years worth in just one day.) This year the keynote speaker was Bruce Precious from The GPT Group, speaking on Global Mega Trends and the Property Sector. I’d seen Bruce speak before on the GPT offices at MLC (and blogged about it here) . As I’d enjoyed his previous presentation and I was in need of a few more CPD points I signed up for the morning session. As I got so much just out of Bruce’s presentation and the panel talk following it, I’m going to focus on just that part of the morning. If you missed the day and were hoping for a full wrap, sorry but you will have to hunt elsewhere in the hope someone else has blogged about the rest! (Trust me I’ve picked the best bit for you)

Bruce’s presentation was covering research that The GPT Group undertook in conjunction with CSIRO looking into mega trends affecting property industry. The aim of The GPT Group in looking into these mega trends is to be able to convert threats into opportunities. Bruce noted that if there is evidence of a trend it has already happened, it is historic and doesn’t guarantee the future. I’d also note that if the research has gone this far and now being pushed out to the public its probably not the cutting edge trends of the minute – but then thats part of the point isn’t it, a mega trend is one that tends to last as while as well as have a large impact.

As so often is frequently commented upon in social and technology circles, Bruce commented on the fact that the world is accelerating, the pace of change is ever increasing. Does this mean we can still identify long term trends? This one is my question – but I think when we get to what are the 6 mega trends you will probably agree yes we can.

As well as long term trends there are shocks and tipping points, man made and natural. Whilst these can have just as much impact as the longer term mega trends, they are not something we can predict or our businesses can plan for. Although sometimes these shocks or tipping points could perhaps have been predicted? My question – Global Financial Crisis – shock or trend? But lets not go there – lets go now to what are the six mega trends which The GPT Group identified as having the most impact on their business, the property sector in Australia. Now see if you can guess what they actually mean…I love the names, great idea whoever came up with these catchy sayings.

1. Spaced out
2. More from less
3. The orient express
4. Behind the scenes
5. Tangible intangibles
6. Forever young

Spaced Out
No it’s not about the fact we have less office space per person than ever. It’s about tech savvy people, being constantly connected, the change in how we communicate and what information we have available to us due to the massive changes in technology over recent years. It includes big data, but as Bruce pointed out we have to get from big data to big information, perhaps he thought we can then get to big knowledge but will big wisdom ever exist?

In practical terms, GPT are developing apps based around the concept of the shopping centre as the community hub. The apps not only display info about the centre but link social networks. In future,sensors will personalize this experience even further.

In the workplace, technology allows flexibility and movement – the freerange workplace. The empty desk could be used by anyone, not just someone from our own organisation. GPT has invested in Liquid Space – a start up company base on a concept similar to Airbnb and are now trialing spaces in Sydney and Melbourne.

More from less
This one has the most obvious title – using less – less water, less energy, less materials. Bruce took it in an interesting direction beginning with a discussion of the growing intellectual potential of the world is due to world growth, growing affluence, and participation of women. (I thought it was a great rant by the way!)

GPT are looking at cutting use of natural resources – reducing water, waste, energy etc. Bruce discussed recycling and the possibilities of improving recycling – upcycling rather than downcylcing. Eg rather than grind glass up into road base, can it be used as something higher? Aparently there is a company upcycling dirt from street sweepings which contains a high amount of precious metals, as apparently do old mobile phones! These are generating new possibilities for mining resources.

For GPT and the property industry in Australia energy savings have been a key change in recent years. GPT is part of the The Better Building Partnership which consists of many leading property companies in Sydney. Romilly Madew, the CEO of the GBCA is quoted on their website as saying “Partnership is the new leadership”, Bruce questions could mankind’s new force be cooperation? We now have a database of water, waste and energy covering a large chunk of the local Sydney commercial building market. This is a great resource for the Sydney property market and others moving forward.

The orient express
The growth of China and other eastern population centers – a scale of populations that is unimaginable as an Australian. A company sales conference of 3000 people came to Sydney, this was just their top people! They booked the bridge climb for days solid! Can we even visualise this scale? Bruce recommended as a way to visually see the changes and development of the world across many measures of large population centers. (There is a great gapminder TED talk too).

Behind the scenes
Supply chains and logistics are changing – both due to the internet and globalisation. I think there might be a lot more interesting stories behind this one.

Tangible intangibles
We are moving beyond consumerism as product consumption and into experience consumption – for example travel. Shopping centres for example are now experiential as well as for the function of shopping. Community spaces, outdoor spaces, gathering spaces.

Forever young
The impact of ageing and disability on design. The space requirements for motorized scooters and wheelchairs.

I thought the last 3 trends could have been discussed further, all of them will impact on design and could be quite interesting. I can see why the trend More with Less was a focus at a sustainability event, but it did seem that maybe Bruce was running out of time at the end – I would have been quite happy to listen to more. Bruce’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Romilly Madew with Bruce, Siobhan Toohill (Westpac) and Richard Palmer (WSP) who brought some interesting perspectives as well as answering audience questions on the topic of mega trends and the property industry.

What stories would you add to these last 3 trends? What do you think are the mega trends affecting the property industry? CSIRO apparently came up with eight of which GPT chose to focus on six. Do you think the trends elsewhere are the same as in Australia? Some of the other interesting trends raised in the panel discussion following were the social and sharing economy and the rise of the city.

TEDx Sydney: My 30 seconds on stage in the Opera House Concert Hall

TEDxSydney 2013 by TEDxSydney, on FlickrMy own moment of TEDx fame came late in the day, I was selected as one of 18 audience participants to share my own big idea – could we design buildings based on data analysis? We already use data analysis and modeling to look at technical areas of building design such as acoustics and fire. We are at the point where using data analysis of human behaviour to optimise functional and spatial designs is becoming possible.  Is there the possibility that in the future we could use data analysis to design beauty into our buildings, to use data to design buildings like the Sydney Opera House?

I’m was certainly a bit nervous about speaking in front of 2200 people, but I think it went OK – I’ve been looking for a video of this audience ideas segment on the net, but the TEDx videos are not online yet. Maybe next week.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned that i was going to be attending TEDx. So some of you might be wondering – what the hell is this TEDx thing anyway? It’s about “ideas worth spreading” with the TED representing Technology, Entertainment, Design. It’s website describes the idea as

to bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).

Started as a one off event in 1984, it turned into a conference in 1990. (There are now 2 annual conferences). And these days all the TED talks are available free on the web for everyone to share. TEDx is a bit like Little Ted. It’s a one day event organized independently, this year was the 5th Sydney TEDx.

I wrote this post directly from TEDx Sydney, at the Opera House on Saturday (although this post won’t go live till Tuesday).  It will be a 2 part post continuing next week.

For today’s Sydney event there is an amazing lineup of Australian speakers as well as intervals with musicians, performers and videos. There are speakers from a wide range of fields including architecture, design, music, arts, politics, business, medicine, science, history and space archeology(?!)

Right now its just after 8am and the Opera House foyer is full of people with ipads – I think that must have been a question in the application form! (you had to apply to buy a ticket). Anyway its going to be a long but amazing day! Speakers of particular interest to me before we start are Marc Newson and Andrew Parker.

At first I thought I wouldn’t attempt to give you something from every speaker – but I quickly changed my mind. I’ve summarized the main idea behind each speaker, so the ones you find interesting yourself you can pick and go watch online (when they are uploaded they will be here)

Wow. Amazing and uplifting talk from Ron McCallum who is blind, about the technology and the people that have allowed him to learn to read, study law and enjoy reading over his lifetime. So much passion for reading and for sharing this opportunity with other blind people in the developing world who might not have the same opportunities. TEDx was off to a roaring start with a standing ovation – I admit I cried.

Alice Gorman is a traditionally trained archeologist who one day got the idea to explore space junk from an archaeological perspective. Does space junk have cultural and historical value? Like objects and artifacts in earth satellites and space probes tell stories about technology and the poeple and culture behind them.

Jennifer Robinson, a human rights lawyer famous for representing Julian Assange, told the story of Benny Wenda and the West Papuan struggle for independence from Indonesia. Jennifer told us about how meeting Benny changed her life, and hoped it would do the same for us, Benny joined Jennifer on stage to thank her for helping to share the story of West Papua with the world.

“In God we trust…all others must bring data”. Simon Jackman spoke of the impact on the data revolution on political science, both the possibilities of using data to more accurately predict election results but also how accurate data could influence politicians.

Danny Kennedy spoke about the politics and power behind our dependence upon fossil fuels for power. Over a lifetime of activism, he has become convinced that solar is the solution – a solution that offers opportunities for abundance for all, not just the richest nations. The idea that there are profits to be made from solar is not a bad one – it will help encourage change.

Lisa Murray spoke about “the digital black hole”, the loss of born digital record as opposed to paper. Record from the past 10 years can be hater to access than those from 100 years ago. (Do you have a functioning floppy disk drive?). In NSW the state government has not even committed to funding our digital archive beyond June 2013 (that’s not a typo!). It makes me wonder where my thesis is now…[I did go looking for my thesis this morning. I found a link to it on a discussion board, but the link itself was broken, I guess its disappeared into that data hole. Good thing I printed it out!]

Tune in next week for more from TEDx!

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