Innovation Ignites Emerging Technologies: Real Estate Developers Roundtable

Historically, the real estate industry has not been known for its innovation within asset development and management. However, in recent years, there has been a notable influx of investment, with billions of dollars being used for the development of new solutions aimed at improving how companies approach the development and management of real estate. A notable example of this is Fifth Wall, which has raised over $3 billion in risk capital, making it possibly the largest venture fund focused on the real estate sector. Additionally, real estate companies themselves are increasing their investments in technology. So, how is all of this actually affecting how the nation's leading developers and managers are approaching their projects? At this year’s Buildings Conference we will hear perspectives from leading firms in the field, including Jones Lang LaSalle, Lendlease, JMB, Transwestern, and Related.

Ahead of our annual Buildings Conference in May, we took some time to ask some of the leaders from these real estate companies where they see emerging technologies and innovative approaches gaining ground in the industry and where they see challenges and opportunities ahead.

The trailblazers that are discussing this pressing matter are Michael Ellch, Senior Vice President at Related Midwest; Peter Siegal, SVP & Director of Development Operations at LendLease Development; and Joe Harris, Asset Manager of JMB Financial Advisors. All three will be leading important discussions pertaining to the industry at BuiltWorlds’ 2023 Buildings Conference.

Where do you see innovation actually happening in the industry?

Peter Siegal

“The expectations, generally, are that the innovation is happening in the engineering community and I think that the reality is that it has to happen at every point along the process.”

“We are seeing the necessity to rely on a new breed of consultants who have an expertise in sustainable design…There is a relatively small fraternity of experts out there that have the ability to model.”

“In the past people have only used these models to prove out that they meet the standards for code, or to meet their obligations to get some LEED certification, now we are actually using them much more integrally to understand which ones work and which ones don't. The combination of what you use is very important.”

Joe Harris

“There is a lot of innovation around access control and tenant experience, with mobile applications that happen within the user end.”

“When I think of innovation, I think about user experience and creating a seamless system to enhance what the building itself provides.”

Michael Ellch

“At [Related Midwest's] projects, such as The 78 or The Row in West Loop, our team is innovating by creating inclusionary and affordable housing. About 20% of the units at The Row will be available at 50 percent of area median income.”

“[When starting a project] we look at a neighborhood and find ways to adapt to how it is changing and responding to the new demands of the area.”

Where do you see emerging technologies taking hold?

Peter Siegal

“In terms of the technologies taking hold, it’s going to be proven by the test of time. We will integrate these things into projects and the ones that are most successful and creative are the ones that are going to get the press and other developer’s [interest].”

“We are still at the front-edge of all this stuff, it really is concocting, inventing, and designing how these things work…It’s really not about the individual measures, it’s about the synergy that is created from all of these systems together and trying to identify the blend of systems that are going to work best for the particular building you're doing.”

“[LendLease] has people whose job it is to contact manufacturers and try to figure out what they're doing and what their timeline is…The fact is that a lot of the things that we want to do, we can't yet, because the manufacturers haven’t developed the products.

Joe Harris

“I see [emerging technologies] in and around the digitalization of the tenant experience of connecting with the buildings–whether it be access and entry, sustainability, or booking reservations. From before entering a building to leaving the building, these technologies should serve as a tool that is catered for their specific experience.”

Michael Ellch

“Within the residential space, emerging practices and technologies are constantly occurring. Utilizing incentives, such as affordable housing, has given rise to technology that can increase the longevity of these spaces, while also keeping them affordable.”

Where do you still see opportunities/needs for innovation?

Peter Siegal

“Most of the innovation that is needed in my understanding is how to combine systems to be synergistic”

“The true innovation is in understanding how these different energy conserving measures can be used together to be more than the sum of their parts.”

Joe Harris

“There is an opportunity for greater connectivity between systems and tools, whether it be financial systems talking to property management systems, or generally just sharing information between departments and people to improve communications internally between stakeholders."

Michael Ellch

“There's a lot of opportunity for innovation. One of the places [Related Midwest] is looking is in making the carbon footprint of our buildings smaller. This is everything from the materials used to produce the building, to the appliance packaging offered within the unit.”

Want to be a part of the discussion about innovation within the built world?

Join us at the 2023 Buildings Conference!