While it is still early days, developers are using virtual walkthroughs and online bookings to boost sales, and 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things to improve construction quality and crunch lead time.
Estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2030 and achieve a headcount of about 70 million, driven largely by rising demand and a slew of reforms during the past decade or so, the real estate industry was nevertheless badly impacted, like most other sectors, by Covid-19. The second wave was particularly devastating and took a huge toll on property sales in April and May this year, with several States under partial lockdowns to contain the spread of coronavirus. However, new launches began seeing an uptick in June, when States began gradually lifting curbs.
How did the sector manage to keep its head above the water during the painful 14-15 months of the pandemic?
A large part of the answer lies in the manner in which the real estate industry re-invented itself by adopting technology to boost sales and improve construction quality. If a customer wasn’t paying visit to a site, some of the larger players, viz. Godrej Properties, Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate, and Purvankara in Bangalore, brought their projects right to the living room of the potential buyer, through online bookings, zoom calls and virtual experience centres to clock sales in a dead market. In fact, Godrej Properties is reported to have sold a staggering 500 homes using technology in the quarter ended March 2021. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs with the National Real Estate Development Council also launched an e-commerce portal on which the developers will offer their ready-to-move homes for digital sales.
While the real estate sector is in the nascent stages of a mammoth tech shift, there has been considerable support from the Union Government to keep the sector relevant as well. Let’s explore the changes in this landscape.
Digital communication is becoming the norm and efficiency, safety and hygiene are of paramount importance, with the technology of Proptech, buyers and sellers of real estate are enabled to access information and consult online.
Online catalogues, video/virtual tours of the property, online transactions are some of the parameters that the real estate industry has begun adopting using technology for making processes swifter, more efficient and user-friendly.
The industry has begun adopting innovative processes that digitise traditional ones, enabling the realtor to analyse more data, be accessible online and real-time, while in this context, the Government extended the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP) up to 2020-21 for building upon the common features existing in land records in different States and developing an Integrated Land Information Management System (ILIMS) across India, enabling States to add their State-specific requirements.
The aim is to ensure uniqueness in all transactions and keep land records up-to-date for establishing a link of all property transactions.
These include architectural benefits or enhancements in construction materials and processes (e.g. 3D printing and modular building).
One area that is still quite nascent but holds promise is 3D printing of structures. Technology can play a key role in helping India achieve the mission of ‘housing for all’, under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), or PMAY (U) which, as per current estimates, requires erecting a staggering 60 million houses by 2022.
In fact, even startups are beginning to bet on this technology, and one IIT Madras-backed enterprise has been reported to have showcased its 3D printing technology with the construction a house at the institution’s campus.
The enterprise employs a concrete 3D printer that works on a computerised two-dimensional design and builds a 3D structure in a series of layers by extruding flowable concrete-like building material. The resultant ‘automation’ reduces construction lead time drastically, and if the technology is accepted, it could go a long way in helping achieve the ‘housing for all by 2022’ deadline.
Time and cost overrun is a major real estate challenge. AI facilitates ‘smart construction’ through drone surveys, 3D maps and models, extracting blueprints, and simulating project schedule optimisers that contemplate options for project delivery and augment overall project planning.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the foundation of the Light House Projects (LHP) under the Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India) across six States.
The GHTC-India programme would help build over 1,000 houses in each city in these six states within 12 months. Key feature of the LHP includes people being provided sustainable housing which are economical and strong and have been built using special techniques. The beam-columns and panels of these houses are made in factories and brought to construction site for assembly.
With the advent of ‘anywhere’ and ‘anytime’ workplace, realtors require being flexible in time, location and environment for leasing commercial properties. Workplaces can be allocated ‘anywhere’ and ‘anytime’.
Realtors are hiring data scientists for procuring information from building management systems, tenant feedback and swipe card to assess, develop and introduce flex operational models into their portfolios to ensure optimal use of the commercial properties.
Healthy workplace and residences
Covid-19 has changed the way we think about our health and safety in public spaces.
Density ratios, touch less technology, sensors to monitor air pollutants, robots for cleaning activities for the post-pandemic workplace can enable a healthy work environment.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT links multiple devices, systems and/or buildings with the aim of making real estate more efficient, sustainable and user-friendly. The technology is useful in a world that is fast moving to the new norm of remote or virtual access, as opposed to physical presence.
Virtual reality and 3D mapping
These technologies replicate an environment using computer simulation. Drone technology allows users to create an alternative reality (e.g. building information modelling)
Adoption of virtual reality or 3D mapping technology for providing digital walkthrough allows prospective tenants, buyers or managers to undertake property inspection online. The technology merges images and videos of a property and creates a digital space that is essentially indistinguishable from the realproperty. This potentially provides new exclusive experiences for investors, and hence the chance to differentiate from competitors. Pre-construction architectures can be viewed with minimal clicks.
Many real estate organisations today lack fully-integrated, end-to-end digital capabilities required to compete in today’s industry. It’s important for realtors to leverage technology for higher long-term value and better decision-making.
(By Ashoo Gupta, Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.)
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.