2020s. It sounds like the future because it is. I believe this decade is going to mark a major turning point in the working definition of the owner. Whether it’s a real estate investor, corporation, utility, manufacturing plant, government, hospital, or school system; it’s the decade of the owner. For all types of owners, construction is a systemic challenge – common to all asset types, all owner types, all regions, countries, and continents.
Construction ownership is—at base—the story of a built asset moving through time and accruing value. Construction management tech—the digitization of the construction process—will reframe the way the world has thought about construction before the 2020s. In this decade, the owner will wholly grasp the vast benefits inherent in construction technology, and take the reins.
Early in this decade the owner will understand the value of combining material ownership—the brick, steel and glass—with ownership of the building’s data. The ascendance of data as a real property asset is going to revolutionize the owner role in the 2020s.
I’ve been focused on this particular corner of the real estate world for years, innovating purpose-built software for the owner. I’ve had a front row seat as investment in global real estate technology surged from $320 million in 2011 to $12.9 billion in the second half of 2019 alone.
The varied and exploding real property tech sector is sometimes broad-brushed with the name Proptech or ConTech or Real Estate Tech. Whatever you want to call it, in the 2020s the trajectory is skyward. I can read the handwriting on every new wall that goes up. Here’s what I see happening this decade.
Digital Models: The Owner’s Launch Pad
A major GC told me recently that his outfit had become a “model first” company. What’s that mean? BIM (Building Information Modeling) is the production of a hyper-detailed, digital 3D model of a build, from MEP to mortar. In 2020, the owner will adopt and embrace BIM as a critical first stage in the build—a visual tool whose “model first” exactitude can actually lead the management of the project. 2020 will see BIM broadly adopted by an owner community taking possession of project data and wielding its efficiencies.
In the 2020s these BIM models will evolve into virtual reality replicas of each asset, enabling remote property management and engineering, and allowing real-time collaboration with occupants. This real-time data on every aspect of the building, from construction all the way through operations and teardown, will change the perspective of owners and occupants all over the world.
Live Estimation, Scheduling and Reforecasting
Every owner, across every asset type, has the same questions around construction projects of all sizes: How much will it cost? How long will it take? Are we in line with our forecast?
For hundreds of years, budgeting, scheduling, and forecasting have been the interdependent engines that keep a project flying. Each can be incredibly complex, and since even small jobs are expensive, the stakes are high to ensure that owners get each of them right, every time.
In the 2020s, owners will have access to technology that allows them to almost instantly estimate what any job will cost. They will input high level project parameters and be met with instant granular estimates 100% generated by a mix between data and machine learning. In the same instant they will be met with an estimate of the project schedule that allows them to see which trades they will need to hire, when, and how long each should take.
Lastly, once a project kicks off, powerful analytics within project financials, estimating, and scheduling will allow owners to reforecast project budget and completion timing—live. These Data-fueled reforecasts will use the power of modern computing and analytics to integrate fluid, real-time project course corrections that still pay heed to the original’s financial underwriting.
The Flattening Jobsite
Cloud-based construction management technology allows complete visibility into the hour-by-hour state of the construction project, and from anywhere in the world. Who stands most to benefit from this tech achievement? In 2020 the owner will become an integrated participant throughout the life cycle of the build, with a 360 view of project progress and a real-time role in execution. A new horizontalized partnership will emerge between owner, general contractor, architects, and specialty contractors in the field—one that makes the owner a deeply informed participant in the project.
An Open Marketplace of Ideas. And Tools.
Owners will take advantage of digital construction management’s ability to swarm and repair any productivity-affecting issue that arises in the course of the project. Today’s API (Application Program Interface)—perhaps best exemplified by Procore’s Marketplace—makes the construction management platform completely configurable and bristling with integrative construction tools to meet any project challenge. A growing innovator marketplace continues to plane away project speed bumps with niche solutions that seamlessly plug into the platform. Construction necessity will continue to mother digital invention, and the owner will be the chief benefactor.
Proptech 2020 for Owners
In 2020, I see Proptech—the previously mentioned array of purpose-built real estate technology—coming into broad adoption by a construction owner cohort that grasps the inherent value of this new real estate asset—project data. A digital divide will occur in the industry between the haves and the have nots. The owners who have fully integrated and adopted a modern technology stack will outperform those that have not. Throughout this decade, executives who have deep experience architecting these technology stacks—for owners of all types—will continue to climb, as the data enables their companies to make decisions faster and more efficiently than ever before.
The fact is, if you’re working with any type of owner in the real estate or construction sector, you are now in the technology industry—and you will reap the rewards of the intuitive, integrated platforms now at your disposal – as long as you lean in, stay open to change, and see the future guided by technology. The 2020s will become the decade of an integrated owner, with real-time, hour-by-hour visibility and participation like never before. Technology isn’t a complication. It’s the widest picture window you can imagine.