The autumn conference season is now officially off and running, with a wide range of conventions from industry specific to party political conferences scheduled to take place over the next couple of months.
The recent Resi360 conference hosted in partnership with Property Week with its theme of ‘What now, What next’ was not only a useful temperature check of the issues and opportunities facing the housing sector, but I suspect the themes we debated and the sentiment of the delegates will be reflected time and again in conferences to come.
In the ‘C-Suite Barometer’session, moderated by BBC Home Editor, Mark Easton, the panel debated the conference headline theme and the mood of the market was summed up succinctly in one word – ‘twitchy’. There is certainly a lot to make people feel this way as we continue to work in uncertain times. There was much debate around key issue from addressing the chronic shortage of housing, how to meet demanding sustainability targets not to mention challenges around funding and planning. The call out remains for increased government investment alongside much-needed stability on the ever-shifting sands. The overruling by the House of Lords of Michael’s Gove’s amendment to the nutrient neutrality legislation is just one recent example. With so much ongoing uncertainty, it is no wonder that the sentiment is ‘twitchy’.
But what about ‘what next’?
Among the challenging conditions we are working under, there are, of course, some bright spots. The landscape around BTR still looks to remain robust and set to grow and the sentiment to this positivity was reflected throughout the sessions.
Then of course, there is AI. Everyone is interested in the opportunities, and it can feel a bit like a concept. A lot of talk about the potential coupled with some apprehension about what this might mean in terms of future investment and upskilling the workforce. So, it was good to be reminded that not only are there some fantastic things to come, but there is also innovative work going on already.
A highlight for me was the case study session by Janne Aas-Jakobsen, founder and CEO of Consigli. Janne spoke about the work they are doing in prop-tech, using AI at the development stage for the good, using complex modelling to look at reducing cost, building in efficiencies, and reducing carbon at the same time. She used some great examples including how AI modelling was able to find 24 more hotel rooms for a standardised development verses a manual exercise, because machine learning can run 75,000 billion iterations of the model to create optimum solutions to be reviewed.
It was a useful example of how AI is bringing tangible benefits already and its influence will only grow – a real ‘what now, what next’. We all know data is becoming more and more important, both in terms of managing and understanding operating costs and informing future development through analysing usage. AI will accelerate how we can analyse data further and my hope is that it will help unlock some of the challenges our industry faces particularly in the areas of energy efficiency and net zero.
As built environment consultants, we have always been huge advocates of the power of data, it’s at the core of what we deliver for our clients. Fundamentally, data and digital play a critical role in allowing us to build safer, more sustainable, and better-quality homes. Data management is a major pillar of the Building Safety Act (BSA) and just one example is the deadline for the legal requirement for registering high residential buildings by 1 October which is now less than one month away. This deadline, alongside other aspects of the BSA advocating the golden thread of data ownership, is no doubt driving some much-needed change for our industry, but it’s also providing us with a real opportunity to embed best practice and see the benefits of a data and digitally focused future.