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Weekend Property

Hong Kong’s real estate sector needs to plug into smart-city development

Connectivity will be the basis of future smart cities as real estate industry uses new technologies and systems to devise efficient strategies and solutions for clients

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 9:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 4:07pm

Jeremy Sheldon is the managing director, markets and integrated portfolio services, Asia-Pacific, at international property consultant JLL. He talks about the role the real estate sector can play in embracing the smart-city concept in Hong Kong.

What role does the real estate sector play in the smart-city movement?

By 2050, over 70 per cent of the global population will be living in cities. There’s a growing need to improve the standard of living, access to work, and create greater access to facilities. We’re going to have a very convenient and efficient mass transport system. All of these have to be sustainable, as we cannot exhaust our resources. A smart city, in essence, will be integrating existing and future connected technologies into the planning of a community. So the adoption of proptech, or the convergence of technologies working in step to modernise and digitise real estate development, will improve living standards, enhance productivity and drive economic growth. Connectivity will be the basis of future smart cities. I think the real estate industry has to be able to plug into future smart city development. Using new technologies and systems, we can come up with efficient strategies and solutions for our clients.

Can you name some smart-building technologies that are being used or under development?

A smart city employs a range of technologies, including many connected devices, to improve district-level management, governance, and long-range design and planning. Given an ageing population, there’s a growing demand for affordable housing, health care facilities and fitness/wellness spaces. We can think about how we can modernise and improve health care delivery by integrating health care with retail, housing, elderly care, and living systems through more holistic planning and innovative technologies. We can also develop more flexible workplaces. With innovative solutions, we can lay out business spaces that allow for multiple uses. So a workspace may not be just for business, but could also be spaces for people to gather. When companies plan to expand, they don’t have to give the new employee a new desk. A flexible, agile workplace gives the mobility whereby people can do different jobs without interfering with other people’s work. A more flexible, scalable and people-centric workspace can help cut operating costs, lower attrition costs as people don’t want to leave the organisation and feel happier, and therefore enhance productivity. It has spawned a new concept of co-working and co-living. Everything needs to be planned and executed from strategy through tactics to operation. Another example would be smart building technology. The real estate sector is producing technologies that help monitor building performance, maintain its operational functions, track data, and help with maintenance. On a granular level, building data collected can be turned into analytics that help fine-tune the processes at a greater number of building systems to lower energy and maintenance costs.

Are costs an issue for property owners to embrace smart-building solutions?

Technological advancement is moving at an extraordinary pace. The call for a sustainable future and demand from the younger generation are driving the shift towards smarter, more sustainable building solutions. As a consequence, the built environment can provide better indoor air quality, cleaner water to the occupants. Costs are coming down so prices will no longer deter property owners from implementing smart building solutions. As the corporate sector increasingly demands smarter, greener office space, owners are more willing to invest in upgrading their premises to secure good-quality tenants.

How can the Hong Kong government support smart buildings?

If you look at countries that are successful in smart-building development, there’s a combination of private sector wanting to make the changes and the public sector providing with the right environment or framework to make them happen.