Takeaways from AIBP Insights Retail & Real Estate: Harnessing Digital for Sustainable and Mixed-use Spaces

In our final session for Retail & Real Estate, our panelists from a diverse range of backgrounds including the Global Sustainability Exchange, Mahsing Group, JLL, Robinsons Land Corporation, as well as solution providers Advantech and EMS came together to share some very interesting perspectives for the future of sustainability in real estate.

AIBP Insights is a series of closed-door regional roundtable discussions which are part of our ongoing engagement with enterprises in ASEAN to look at topics affecting digital transformation for their businesses. The purpose is to enable the exchange of ideas between industry stakeholders and spearhead creative collaboration across industries and countries.

Harnessing Digital for Sustainable and Mixed-use Spaces

For the real estate industry today, spaces now have to adapt to changing needs and emerging priorities. In addition to retail spaces, office, recreational and other commercial spaces must adapt to the new normal. The adoption of technology like sensors, AI and machine learning and digital twins have been accelerated to create an agile, safe, and connected environment. How are ASEAN’s real estate and sustainability stakeholders addressing these shifts in the industry?

Recurring topics today were focused on compatibility between sustainability goals, business goals and regulatory compliance, technology and innovations for sustainable real estate, as well as the future of sustainability in real estate.

Sustainability Goals, Business Goals and Regulatory Compliance

Sustainability goals and business goals may be reconciled by framing sustainability as a value proposition for customers.

Joey Radovan, Vice Chairman, JLL, believes that sustainability should be viewed as part of a whole process in the property market which involves various stakeholders and its surrounding industries. Considerations for sustainable real estate involve the cycle of real estate development which involves the production of building materials up to waste materials management post-demolition.

As much as sustainability is gaining attention, Kevin Lew, Chief Design Officer, Mahsing Group, observes that the fact today is that real estate developers should do more but are constrained by macro economic factors. Mattias Gelber, Director of Sustainability, Global Sustainability Exchange, added that compliance reports should be integrated with real estate management to identify the environmental risks. He thinks that business opportunities lie in delivering unique value to customers.

Maria Cleofas Oliver Maceda, Head Corporate Environmental Compliance, Robinsons Land Corporation, highlighted the importance of monitoring water and energy consumption to ensure safety and sustainability as part of Robinson Land’s corporate social responsibility.

From his experience with helping companies meet UNSDGs, Mattias believes that investments into sustainability solutions are beneficial in the long term. He highlighted the irreversibility of climate change, as well as the impacts of environmental degradation on human wellness. He believes that technology solutions like IoT, sensors and data analytics can be used to understand risks.

For Kevin, an architect by training, his goal is to bring design to the next level by incorporating sustainability. Despite this, he also believes that developers have to be realistic in achieving UNSDGs, which the majority of the panel agrees with.

Kevin believes that consumer happiness should be at the core of their products. He shares that while Mahsing’s developments are all LEED-certified, a premium price tag is often associated with environmentally-friendly products and there is a lack of acceptance in the Malaysian market for this value proposition. To this, Mattias suggests that the key could be creative marketing – by presenting how the environmental aspect of the products are related to attributes that customers find valuable. 

Likewise, Joey shares that JLL has been engaging in a long-term sustainability strategy, partnering with all their stakeholders, from employees to clients, to focus on what they need in their workplaces and communities, to build a better tomorrow. He also spoke about his personal ‘7-11’ strategy which involves UNSDGs 7 and 11 – affordable and clean energy, and sustainable cities and communities – where he believes renewable energy is the next step for energy consumption.

Kevin believes that political support is necessary in meeting sustainability goals, and Mattias shared how in the Philippines, the government is incentivising the use of renewable energy by implementing rebates for renewable energy usage.

Technology & Innovations for Sustainable Real Estate

The general consensus is that there are innovations and technology for sustainable practices in real estate. The question is: are companies making use of these innovations? 

Kevin states that for real estate companies, it makes more economic sense to build new buildings than to retrofit old ones with new technology. He thinks that the use of modular systems may be one way to address the need to upgrade specific parts of existing buildings.

Coming from the compliance perspective, Cleo also shares that failing to comply with regulatory requirements will result in penalties for real estate companies themselves. In the long run, it would be advantageous for them to invest in technology to aid compliance. She also spoke about how her organisation is looking into rain harvesting, water reuse, solar energy and electronic waste disposal as part of their sustainability efforts.

Steve Lin, Representative, EMS, shared how water management solutions are utilised to increase savings in water usage, and Meng Lue, iLogistics & iCity Product Manager, Advantech, also shared about intelligent energy conservation through AIoT solutions. 

Mattias brought up the importance of cost-effectiveness of innovative solutions for sustainability. He suggests that to address the high costs of sustainable solutions, real estate companies should look for local solutions. In addition, our panelists also brought up the need for political will and support to incentivise sustainable alternatives and drive sustainable practices, as well as shareholders exerting pressure on ESG ratings for listed companies 

The Future of Sustainability for Real Estate

In addition to the use of technology to support sustainable real estate development and management, Joey believes that greening the community as a whole is integral. He goes on to say that everyone has to understand environmental impacts and commit to meeting carbon emission goals. 

Kevin thinks that people are taking technology for granted. He highlights the need for human efforts in the use of technology and meeting sustainability goals. Mattias believes that the key to sustainable real estate lies in the adoption of the technology and innovations available to the market. Human effort is imperative in creating a sustainable future. 

Following the conclusion of AIBP Insights for Retail and Real Estate, stay tuned for AIBP Insights Logistics and Supply Chains will be held on 16th and 17th March, as well as AIBP Insights for Manufacturing , Government, and Banking and Finance which will be held in the next few weeks. Do reach out if you wish to find out more about our upcoming sessions!


4 March 2021

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