As Mipim celebrates its 30th birthday in 2019, the event calls upon the real estate industry’s next generation of leaders to consider what the built environment will look like in 2050. 

55% of the world’s population currently live in urban areas, and the figure is expected to grow to 68% by 2050, according to the United Nations. 

There is an increasing pressure on our towns and cities to meet our needs to live, work and play in harmony and for the benefit of future generations. The way that we engage with technology, smarten construction productivity measures and act as a collective will build necessary resilience in 2050’s urban conurbations. 

Harnessing the power of technology 

In 2050, we’ll be living in smart cities. Cities where the built environment is connected and learns from itself to maximise efficiency and performance. 

Advances in technology offer new ways for us to increase productivity on building sites and maximise efficiency of maintained assets. It is undeniable that virtual reality, augmented reality, photogrammetric analysis, drones all significantly increase the opportunity to share data and build a picture of how urban environments operate. 

To build longevity and resilience in our towns and cities of the future, data collection and utilisation is key. The Internet of Things allows systems to talk to each other, maximising efficiency through a ‘smart building’. Technologies are available to help us effectively map a building’s data, from its waste recycling to its water consumption, utilities provision to demand-controlled ventilation systems. 

Making these measures visible and interactive for the local community is essential if we want to engage building occupiers in how their behaviour and building use impacts on performance. Making data available for not just one building but for a whole street, can build a sense of community: allowing collective reaction, a better understanding of a linked environment and the ability to adapt and build resilience.  

Aiming higher (and lower)

The pressures of an increasing population mean that space in towns and cities will be at a continually higher premium and we have to be increasingly creative with the space that we do have. It is therefore essential that we build vertically and share space with others to maximise use. There are lessons to be learned from cities around the world that are already effectively building higher in densely populated areas 

Mapping technology can help us to estimate, for example, how much space there is above railway lines to build housing and community space. Since opening in 2009, New York’s High Line has become an icon of contemporary landscape architecture. Repurposing a disused railway line above the west side of Manhattan, the 1.45 mile-long park provides much needed green space in a densely populated conurbation.

Future cities could also look beneath the ground – can subterranean development assist in space usage? This allows multiple uses on piece of land. This process could also release aggregates which could be used on other construction sites. 

Planning for change 

Planning regulations ought to emphasise green and shared spaces as the anchor to inform the shape of residential communities in 2050, creating communities which are connected rather than sterile housing lacking social support. Rather than paying lip service to green space or squeezing housing in to urban areas, as an industry we need to look at the world around us and the requirements of contemporary life, planning community value over monetary value alone. In creating urban environments that better support residents, people become its heart – without people there is no opportunity for future development.

To ensure green space, vertical, urban gardens are already running up and down the sides of many city centre buildings, satisfying the need to see green space amongst concrete and glass, and filtering out pollutants. Parkroyal on Pickering in Singapore is an example of how 15,000 sq m of sky gardens can transform a space and give life back to its inhabitants and the city around it. 

2050 sounds very futuristic and we have a long way to go. Planning, infrastructure and community requirements all need to be addressed to build resilience in urban areas and shape 2050’s smart cities. But with the power of technology and community needs very much on the agenda of international real estate leaders, we are on track to building a sustainable future for 2050’s global communities. 

Rachel Heywood

Rachel Heywood
Project Manager