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How is Technology Driving Sustainability in Real Estate?

Digital transformation is the catalyst for building resilience and improving the efficiency of the real estate industry.

Author – Mr. Fadi Nwilati, CEO – Kaizen AMS

The real estate industry has grown at an exponential pace in the last two decades and become a key contributor to the UAE economy.

Sustainable construction practices are of great importance to the UAE as the region derives a vast proportion of its GDP from the built environment. Dubai accounts for the highest GDP from real estate among all seven emirates. According to the 2021 annual report released by the Dubai Land Department titled ‘Dubai Real Estate Sector Performance,’ the sector’s contribution has reached up to 14%. Real estate is empowering the UAE economy to reduce its reliance on oil and diversify into more sustainable sources of revenue. However, this monumental success of Dubai has come at a hefty price. Real estate is a major contributor to carbon emissions and energy usage. The story remains similar across the globe.

According to the World Economic Forum report titled, Environmental Sustainability Principles for the Real Estate Industry,’ the real estate sector generates 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and consumes more than 40% of global energy each year. The built environment consumes over 40% of the world’s raw materials.

Embracing sustainable practices

The role of technology will be pivotal in exploring innovative and sustainable ways to minimise the adverse impact of the sector on the environment.

Integrating sustainability and climate considerations into the real estate sector will lead to major short and long-term economic and financial payoffs. Technology has enabled the real estate sector in building resilience and maintaining business continuity. Digital technologies are enabling transformation and greater efficiency in real estate.

Here is a look at the major technologies which will play a decisive role in leading the UAE real estate towards net zero.

1. Internet of Things (IoT)

Emerging technologies such as IoT and AI will encourage the culture of sustainable construction in the UAE real estate sector. The article titled, How IoT Can Make Buildings Efficient & Sustainable by smart technology firm – Metrikus reveals that the implementation of IoT makes buildings responsive, and intelligent, bolsters their performance, reduces defects, monitors performance, and makes timely adjustments based on the dynamic environmental conditions. In this way, IoT improves the building’s efficiency and reduces its energy consumption to make it more sustainable.

2. Big data

Like any other industry, the real estate sector also goes through ineffective usage and storage of data. A vast majority of data lies in silos due to the involvement of multiple systems and stakeholders. Lack of data impedes the ability of real estate leaders in executing their sustainability goals and strategies effectively. Big data assists developers in evaluating bulky data and uncovering behaviour patterns and upcoming trends in sustainability or in real estate.

Big data allows firms to track the use of sensor inputs from the machines and devices used on construction sites. This helps in bolstering their efforts to improve fuel efficiency and reduce construction costs and the adverse impact of business activities on the environment.

The article titled, ‘How Big Data Has Transformed the Dynamics of Real Estate Industry reveals that in real estate, 90% of the decisions are made based on data. The presentation of data determines the future of an organisation, which may offer a business lead or lead to the closure of the deal. Holiday homes and apartment rental firms such as  Airbnb are leveraging AI-enabled big data analytical tools to improve their customer engagements and create unique experiences for them.

The implementation of big data will enable organisations to harness their existing database and empower their C-suite executives in making key decisions to drive sustainability for the greater good of their business and the environment.

3. Smart sensors

The implementation of smart sensors in buildings can significantly minimise energy and water consumption and make the building more energy efficient. The output of installing smart sensors in office buildings is even more favourable. Global research reveals the instrumental role played by smart sensors in leading the real estate sector towards sustainability. For example –  A study conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) titled, ‘Smart Buildings: A Deeper Dive into Market Segments’ found that the average office can save 18% on its annual whole-building energy consumption by installing smart sensor technology.

Intel’s building named PTK1 based in  Petah Tikva is fitted with more than 14,000 sensors and produces more than 100 terabytes of data per day. The studies suggest that the installation of Smart sensors has allowed PTK1 in becoming 40% more energy efficient and in consuming 75% less water compared to an average office building. IoT sensors enable management firms in knowing the current occupancy rate of the community by providing them with real-time data on the building.

This allows them to monitor the energy usage and level of emissions, helping to design strategies to optimise the building’s performance.

4. Robotics

Robotics has bolstered the culture of automation in the real estate industry.  Robotic automation solutions have empowered the real estate sector in addressing its top challenges such as environment-friendly housing, energy efficiency, talent shortage, robotic welding, and enhancing the quality of construction.

The launch of the UAE Sustainable Initiatives, UAE Energy Strategy 2050, UAE Vision 2050, and Clean Energy Strategy 2050 reflect the true commitment of the UAE government to make the built environment more sustainable and environment-friendly. Robotics can play a decisive role through its array of automated and digital solutions which developers can use to minimise waste, reduce cost, foster energy efficiency, and develop more sustainable and environment-friendly building designs and construction processes.

5. Sustainable building materials

The usage of sustainable building materials like bamboo, solar tiles, smart glass windows, solar panels and others will lead to the construction of more sustainable buildings. Sustainable building materials will also increase the lifespan of the buildings and make them more adaptable to climatic conditions. For instance, the usage of heat-reflective paints will minimise the buildings’ energy consumption by keeping them cool in the humid climate of the UAE. The installation of smart glass windows will adjust their transparency and will optimize their cooling capacity.

Researchers across the globe are testing self-healing concrete used for making safer buildings and infrastructure and countering the effects of natural disasters.

Conclusion

The world is leveraging the power of technology to drive sustainability in its built environment. The consistent usage of technology and sustainable practices helped Dubai reduce its carbon emissions by 21% in 2021. The city is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by the end of 2030 under its ambitious Dubai Carbon Abatement Strategy 2030.’ A lot of credit for this goes to the honourable UAE Government for launching numerous projects and programmes focusing on increasing the share of solar energy, improving the operational efficiency at factories and facilities, waste treatment, waste recycling in power and water production, industry, and ground transport.

The implementation of sustainable practices will further minimise carbon emissions and empower the UAE real estate sector in addressing the challenges of climate change and in aligning its goals and objectives in line with the UAE’s Net-Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative’.