For the past three years Cisco has been a supporter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and has actively participated in most of their National events and forums. ULI’s latest Fall Meeting and Urban Land Expo with more than 6,000 attendees, just came to a close last week in Los Angeles and Cisco joined as Sustaining Member and Anniversary Sponsor. The meetings were as inspiring as they were sobering. Clearly, the U.S. real estate market is leading and responding to the economic anguish. There is very little new development happening and (growing) vacancies taint the existing real estate portfolios and market atmosphere.
Top of mind for the leading real estate professionals were the economic uncertainties in the U.S. and abroad (especially in Europe led by the Greece situation); the continuing trouble in the housing market; the political instability (in the U.S. and around the world); and the perceived pressure to pay more attention to environmental issues like energy savings and carbon reductions. In these times of ambiguity, real estate owners have become more forceful and resourceful in providing features and functionalities that
differentiate their properties over the very large existing (and mostly obsolete) building stock. Although the greening of buildings through LEED certification already was becoming widely accepted before the latest economic downturn, it seems that the pursuit of LEED accreditation is one of those factors that real estate owners and developers use to control the marketability and brand of their product. Many session presenters and panel members were flaunting the pursuit of LEED Gold or even Platinum certification: it appears to have become the new norm.
Here I was sitting with my Cisco hat on, becoming growingly surprised why nobody made any mention of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) as an enabler for their buildings to become leaner, greener, and meaner — except for the few technology-focused breakout sessions, including the well attended opening session with Joe O’Connor (moderator, Cisco Smart + Connected Communities), Stan Gale (Gale International), Anil Menon (Cisco Smart + Connected Communities), Thomas Ike (Lutron Electronics), and Phil Williams (Webcor Builders).
Naturally, the omission of ICT from the real estate buzz did not come as a surprise to me. Compare it to asking the CEO of a leading financial institution or airliner what the top 5 issues are that are on her mind – it rarely is ICT. Considering we clearly have transitioned well into the “information age”, and are increasingly becoming part of a connected world (which nobody denies), it is rather disappointing that ICT does not often enough get called out as a leading enabler and solution (or even concern) for the challenges that we all face.
And it certainly is not the lack of proof points by now, which demonstrate that the IT-enablement of buildings (Smart + Connected Real Estate) has a profound impact on the economic sustainability (reduced CAPEX, impact on OPEX, new business opportunities in real estate as we embrace the cloud for building analytics, for instance); environmental sustainability (energy measurement and visualization, energy and carbon reduction); and social sustainability (future-ready places to live,
learn, work, and play; the marriage of virtual and physical in the design and planning of spaces and communities). – sorry for sounding like a broken record.
Yes, we can build (and renovate) buildings for less money up front, that cost less to operate, that virtually automatically optimize energy and carbon consumption, and provide innovative and dynamic environments for those that live, learn, and earn
in them—with the use of existing information technologies (no more bleeding edge).
I understand…it is a journey that we’re part of. Just like only three years ago I was questioned what Cisco was doing at the ULI; this year we seem to have become a household name and participant. I am not asked anymore why we are there…but am asked what we can do for them (the real estate world). We’re glad to be part of the journey. We are already looking forward to our participation at the 2012 ULI Real Estate Summit and the Spring Council Forum in May in Charlotte, North Carolina.
See you there. Hmmm…it’ll be a great opportunity to also check out Envision