By Shrinivas Rao
The metaverse concept has gained significant attention in recent times due to its potential to address various world challenges, including sustainable real estate development. It offers a promising solution to the real estate industry by enabling developers to create virtual reality spaces that can be designed with a focus on developing sustainable and environmentally friendly liveable structures while experimenting with designs, materials, and layouts.
Real estate development often prioritizes cost and convenience over sustainability in the physical world. More often than not, this can lead to wasteful and unviable practices. As such, it becomes essential to consider sustainable development for long-term environmental benefits. On this front, the metaverse has the potential to address these issues by allowing developers to remove the physical world’s limitations and create structures that prioritize sustainability.
The metaverse essentially being a 3D evolution of the internet, its involvement in sustainable development can be through various approaches, such as a fully integrated Building Information Modelling (BIM) or the creation of “digital twins”. While BIM has been widely adopted in building design, construction, and maintenance over the past decade, the generation of a “digital twin” of a physical building or system would lead to its enhanced safety, efficacy, and resilience in the real world. By creating digital replicas of physical entities and operations in the metaverse, organisations have the opportunity to promote sustainability on a global scale. Intelligent solutions introduced to the real estate industry with the combination of artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, Internet of Things, and data generated by satellites, hold prospects of developing a more sustainable and interconnected industry. Soon, we anticipate that digital replicas of buildings within an urban system will be linked to broader city-wide digital twins, providing the industry with extensive knowledge about the city’s metabolism and new possibilities for achieving sustainability goals.
Renewable energy is another area where metaverse can contribute to sustainable development. Implementing renewable energy in the physical world can be challenging and expensive. In the metaverse, developers can easily incorporate renewable energy sources into their virtual buildings and experiment with different configurations to determine the most effective method. In addition, the fact that buildings consume copious amount of water, generate waste, and contribute to urban heat island effects, requires timely intervention of technology to curb such predicament. The metaverse can help address these issues by allowing developers to experiment with sustainable building designs, materials, and technologies. For example, they can incorporate smart lighting and HVAC systems, significantly reducing energy consumption. They can also explore different materials, such as low-carbon concrete, which can reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.
Commercial real estate is another area where the metaverse can contribute significantly. The process of commercial leasing in India, known for being complex and circumspect, is expected to become more efficient through the use of smart leases and enhanced compatibility with client requirements. Besides, the incorporation of interior 3D mapping and Internet of Things controls in building management and facilities maintenance will greatly reduce ambiguity between occupants and stakeholders, boosting a stronger relationship. Not surprisingly, proptech companies are already investing in the metaverse as a means to propel growth in the real estate market.
Moreover, metaverse can also provide opportunities for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint through remote work. The pandemic has highlighted the effectiveness of remote work, and many companies are now considering adopting it in the long term. In the metaverse, businesses can create virtual offices that enable employees to work from anywhere, reducing the need for physical office spaces and the associated carbon emissions from commuting. Furthermore, it can create new business opportunities by allowing businesses to reach customers innovatively. Virtual reality shopping experiences, for example, can provide customers with immersive experiences that will enable them to interact with products in ways that were not previously possible.
However, the metaverse also has potential drawbacks that must be carefully considered. There is the risk of creating a digital divide where those who cannot afford the technology necessary to access it could be left behind.
In conclusion, the metaverse presents significant opportunities for sustainable development in the real estate industry. Developers can use virtual reality technology to experiment with sustainable building designs, materials, and technologies that prioritize sustainability, liveability, and affordability. At the same time, careful planning and regulation are necessary to ensure that the metaverse remains a tool for positive change rather than exacerbating existing inequalities and environmental issues.
The author is CEO, Vestian