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Smarter Cities will emerge as one of the most promising investment opportunities of the future - in fact we have no choice! Our societal shift from rural to urban, which has over 100 years seen our global population transition from 5 percent urban to over 50 percent, continues unabated. Over 90 percent of the humans born on this very day will be born into these urban areas, which consume 75 percent of our energy and produce 80 percent of global CO2.
This rapid and sustained growth places enormous stress on the current infrastructure of our cities, and exacerbates the need to design and build them more sustainably from both a resource standpoint and resiliency in the face of a changing global climate. More of the same simply won’t cut it.
Driven largely by the arrival of many new technologies; the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry charged with designing and building our cities is in the midst of a digital transformation that is placing us on the path to Smarter Cities. Over the last three decades the AEC industry has experienced an evolution in technologies and approaches from the CADD (Computer- Aided Design and Drafting) systems of the 80’s/90’s to the birth of BIM (Building Information Modeling) in the 2000’s to the impact of Mobile and Cloud Computing on the services we use every day. Exciting new technologies such as computational design, blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning along with reality capture, augmented/virtual reality, robotics and life-scale 3D printing appear to all be taking useful form now.
The application of manufacturing techniques to construction, which we refer to as “Constructuring”, presents the efficiency promise of vertical integration at industry scale. IoT (Internet of Things) solutions and networks of sensors now generate meaningful data on usage patterns that can inform improved design, construction and operation of our physical world to the point where “Space IS a Service”. The pending arrival of 5G may enable a world where smarter buildings and transportation systems are woven together through new offerings of citizen services unlike any experienced today. Along with Construction Tech and Real Estate Tech, Smart Cities is now emerging as an investment sector.
This convergence of transformative and disruptive forces along with the arrival of new technologies marks a unique point in time. It also requires more comprehensive context to frame the challenge and the opportunity - for that we turn to the “Built Environment”.
As Wikipedia defines it the Built Environment is “the human-made space in which people live, work and recreate on a daily basis”. We now sit on the cusp of one of the greatest business opportunities of modern times - to build a better built world. The Built Environment is the Platform for our Modern Existence. How We Live, Work and Play is rapidly changing as we enter an era of increasing urbanization. Innovation through Smarter Cities will be the key to maintaining and improving our quality of life. As an industry, we will need to change how we design, build, operate and improve our Built Environment to realize the promise of Smarter Cities at scale.