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Real estate’s path is ‘digital and green’ says Carlos Moedas

Carlos Moedas.

Innovation will transform real estate for the better, delegates heard at the Lisbon REinvestment Talks, an online event on RealX.Global organised by Iberian Property and Real Asset Media.

“Real Estate will undergo a radical transformation in the next ten years,” said Carlos Moedas, trustee of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and former EU commissioner for research, science & innovation. “In Europe there are 25,000 billion sq m that need adapting to become sustainable and energy efficient.”

The path is set now and “digital and green are the two directions to go in,” he said.

The construction industry has to transform in order to become sustainable, investing in technology and adopting environment-friendly, recyclable, innovative materials as well as new building and waste management methods.

“It will need to make an extra effort, more than other industries, in order to change people’s perception,” Moedas said. “The key to successful innovation is to bring people from outside the industry to bring in new ideas and a fresh perspective on the process. So far it’s been the researchers, the labs and the engineers that have been proactive and brought about change rather than industry leaders.”

3D-printed houses cost $100 apiece

One example of innovation is the 3D printing of houses for villages in Africa, he said: the EU sent the materials and the small houses were built quickly and extremely cheaply, at $100 each, and with zero waste.

There are very good smart projects in cities like Copenhagen or Grenoble and it would be good to “bring together all the individual examples of innovation in different European cities.”

Portugal also leads by example. Veniam, a local start-up, has set up a “living laboratory” in Porto, using its innovative intelligent networking solution to monitor the traffic flow. “It gives free Wi-Fi to citizens and in return it gathers terabytes of urban data so that urban planning can be improved,” he said.

One good thing about the pandemic is that it has accelerated and even forced the adoption of digital solutions in schools, universities and hospitals as well as in the work environment, which had been resisted for years by teachers, doctors and employers.

“The merging of the digital and physical world has become inevitable now and in ten years’ time we’ll realise how beneficial that was,” said Moedas. “You appreciate the digital, but at the same time the physical experience is more valued and prized.”

Innovation and technology can be used to connect the physical and the digital world. It is not an either/or choice: “You need to be comfortable at the intersection of the physical and the digital, you can’t just inhabit one world,” said Moedas.