Technological innovation is radically changing how and where we choose to work, live and play, essentially forcing us to rethink the built environment—and our place in it.
“This industrial-era concept that there is a separation between work and home is becoming increasingly less relevant.”
From broad access to WiFi and the ubiquity of smartphones to ever-lighter laptops and more powerful tablet devices, technology has created an inextricably connected world. With the virtual barrier between work and home all but gone, the way we think about real estate is fundamentally changing, says Elie Finegold, senior vice president of global innovation and business intelligence at CBRE.
“This industrial-era concept that there is a separation between work and home is becoming increasingly less relevant,” says Finegold. “Because you can work from anywhere, space has become more fungible.”
Finegold, an innovator and entrepreneur with expertise in real estate and technology, says there are three emerging trends reshaping the way people will use real estate in the future.
1. Radical mobility
The ability of people and machines to work from anywhere is transforming the utilization of traditional spaces. “If you conduct a survey and ask people, ‘Have you worked in a living room, a bedroom, a plane, an office, an elevator, somebody else’s house—even a bathroom?’ everyone is going to answer yes to almost every one of them,” Finegold says.
“There’s a whole set of tasks that were once capable of only being done in an office that we can now do from anywhere, and though working face-to-face with others will likely never become obsolete, companies are going to be looking for much more adaptable real estate frameworks as a way of managing both flex in the workforce and the diversity of working habits,” he adds.
By 2020, 40 percent of workers in the U.S. will be self-employed as freelancers, contractors or temp employees, which will further affect the role—and primacy—of traditional office space, says Finegold.
2. Collaborative economy
As people increasingly choose to share and crowdsource goods, services, funding and transportation, the real estate market must adapt to new ways of distributing demands, Finegold says.
The sharing economy created affordable solutions for consumers during the Great Recession and has offered unique income streams for people who need extra cash or more flexible work situations. For instance, Airbnb and Uber have enabled people to turn their homes and vehicles into sources of income.
As people migrate to cities, they may prefer to rent apartments or cars rather than own them. Similarly, if more people are going into business for themselves as freelancers or contractors, the demand for coworking spaces could outweigh the need for traditional office space.
3. Transportation revolution
The rise of autonomous vehicles and transportation—self-driving cars, multi-modal trucking, distribution drones, etc.—coupled with collaborative models like Uber, will make it easier for people and goods to move around more freely. It may also ultimately change infrastructure needs, Finegold says, cutting down on the number of cars on the road or in parking lots at any given moment, while simultaneously creating a competitive market for space utilization.
“There will be huge opportunities for redevelopment of spaces previously used for personal vehicles, from streetside parking spots to multilevel parking decks,” Finegold says.
While some of these trends may be in the distant future, aspects of all three already exist, and they are quickly creating new modes for people to access real estate, Finegold says.
“If you take all of these things together, they are breaking down traditional work/life balances and changing the real estate landscape,” Finegold says. “Companies are attracted to places where there are live/work opportunities for employees.”