How This Technology Will Transform Commercial Real Estate in 2023
Here's how commercial real estate will evolve next year and beyond.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
3D digital twins have started to enter the real estate market and vocabulary, slowly moving from technical tools used in the operational processes to a more people-facing role. They become commercial tools of high value that stand as a commitment to innovation, adaptability and sustainability.
In 2023 and beyond, I expect to see them evolve in how they impact and support the market. Commercial real estate segments — such as office or retail — have met great challenges over the past 2 years. Now, they are confronted with new expectations from their customers, and 3D digital twins can play a vital role in meeting them. This is why I expect these tools to evolve more and more to become a standard in real estate.
After three years of focusing on digital replicas and their potential worldwide, here are the main directions I see 3D commercial digital twins developing next year:
More resources for research and development
The growth of the digital twin industry means an increased competitiveness among digital twin providers to offer the best technologies to their customers. Resources involved in research and development will grow in order to develop and integrate new AI, VR and AR-based technologies, optimize and automate processes and reduce costs.
With renderings still having better graphics than most 3D tours, this could easily be a starting point for digital twin companies. The metaverses we have right now face the same challenge and as the two (real estate and digital universes) come closer, better graphics and immersive gamification features will be a must. Real estate has to be prepared for the future and for a generation of clients (Gen Z, millennials and even Gen Alpha) for whom mastering the digital space comes naturally.
We will see digital twins more in commercial areas
If until not long ago, digital twins were complex structures representing all technicalities needed in the building process, we are moving towards an era where they get fine-tuned for the public. Heavy-data replicas that required professional knowledge get a complementary partner: web-based 3D twins, easy to access and understand by anyone.
These beautiful, branded and soon-to-be gamified replicas will play an important role not only in showcasing a space digitally in order to cut down research and negotiation times but also in divestment processes, facilitating the sale of a building. Furthermore, given the increasing number of refurbished offices (54% of new projects in 2021 in London were office refurbishments), digital twins can be put to very good use here, too — presenting and pre-leasing a future space.
We're moving towards digital universes
The enterprise metaverse as a concept isn't something new anymore. Real estate companies might soon enough have their whole portfolio digitally replicated in a web, virtual platform. This would favor especially large developers or the ones with mixed asset classes (office, residential, retail, logistics, etc.).
These universes would present spaces and their specific features in a company's one-stop-shop, starting from a state-of-the-art 3D digital twin.
A digital twin-based real estate universe would make sense not only for existing assets but for ones in the projecting or building process. Think about new cities being built from scratch, such as The Line or the New Administrative Capital of Egypt. Presenting these projects or any future construction works to interested stakeholders can give a clearer picture of the aimed result and facilitate investments.
Costs will be reduced as more AI will be involved
In the following year and beyond, I expect to see more advanced AI-enhanced features being used in the development of 3D digital twins, as well as more IoTs, such as high-end sensors being used in the generation of these replicas.
We'll be taking steps towards automated generation and almost-simultaneous updates of the twin — if a physical space will change, its digital version of that should (almost) immediately update. This will translate into more automation, but less manual work, time and budget spent on alterations, and consequently, lower costs.
More features will be available for more connectivity
A 3D digital twin of an office will cease to be just a replica. It will turn into an integrated administrative tool that will allow stakeholders to make comments and notes about different features or challenges they'd like to see solved. Tenants will be able to book a meeting call or a certain desk directly from the digital twin or even join a virtual office. Tenant experience and building management solutions will be integrated as well, in order to streamline as many processes and offer the market a complex solution, with multiple easy-to-use features.
What this will lead to, eventually, is turning the 3D digital twin into a more elaborate environment than the actual physical space. This might align just perfectly with the future of work, where the office will be more of a collaborative, social space, designed to bring people together not only to work together but to connect as well.
Meeting the new generation of workers' requirements
There are two aspects to consider regarding the future of work, and consequently, of the office:
With digital nomad visas becoming a thing, at least among European countries, people are not necessarily giving up on having an office, but they do want more flexibility. For them, it has to be as easy as possible to explore a space online, ask for an offer, access a virtual office or book a meeting room;
When it comes to moving to a new office, the decision within a company is not taken by real estate people anymore. Marketing, HR, sales and customer success representatives want to have a saying in where a company is relocating. This means that for them, seeing a space and its potential fit-out in 3D digital twin and not on 2D plans or renderings might make or break a deal.
Digital twins will have a real impact on ESG
Transport is responsible for approximately one-fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions. People travel for many purposes, and choosing an office or buying a home at a distance is one of them. This, together with the printed materials, are two of the main areas where digital twins can have the most powerful and visible impact. Showcasing/choosing a space digitally can reduce travel and printed advertising, offering a great, sustainable alternative.
Furthermore, in the EU alone, buildings account for 40% of all energy consumption, which means there is a lot to improve in how real estate uses and recycles energy. Digital twins can easily become part of the monitoring, test-running and managing processes, helping landlords allocate resources better and show where there's room for improvement. Better monitoring of any type of data is key in a fast-changing environment.
To conclude, I would like to emphasize what connects all the ideas I developed above: adaptability. More than anything, the real estate industry is at a turning point where players get to decide if they go digital or stick to the old ways. Change is inevitable, and I see 3D digital twins as a central part of what new processes will mean. Although they have yet to prove their full potential, I don't think there's room for questioning if they make sense. While I strongly believe in the power of real-life interactions, at the same time, I think real estate can't count solely on these anymore. The industry must try to find and use the right mix with digital environments.