Moon colonies and virtual reality... for real estate?
Happy New Year everyone, I wish you a healthy and prosperous 2023. Since it’s a slow part of the news cycle – holidays, no Bank of Canada announcements, parliament in recess – let’s think a little more speculatively. As someone old enough to remember VCRs and analog telephones, there’s no doubt technology has massively transformed the last few decades. CRE is a somewhat slow-moving industry, and it’s been less ”disrupted” than consumer-facing businesses. We’ve seen some impact of ”internet of things” and data analytics, but what about some really transformative technologies?
This is a new "conversational AI" technology, a more advanced form of a search engine. Think of it was writing an on-demand wikipedia article e.g., "how do the demographics of Edmonton compare to the rest of Canada?". Now don't worry, this isn't going to replace most of the work we do at Colliers - the chatbot can't negotiate office leases, find off market deals, provide debt services for clients. The clearest use is actually (gulp) writing research reports. But it could potentially help in the deal-making process as well; check out these examples for fundraisers, e.g. "a donor just made their first gift to our university, write an email that thanks them and offers volunteer opportunities."
If there's one thing we learned in 2022, it's the precarious nature of our energy supplies. The war in Ukraine and disabled pipeline in the North Sea continues to cause havoc in Europe. What if there were a source of infinite clean energy? There already is one: the sun, powered by... nuclear fusion. And just this month the US department of energy announced a breakthrough in nuclear fusion, a reaction that creates more energy than it consumes. What would this mean for landlords, tenants, construction, commuting, and development? What if energy costs were a minimal (and stable) part of development costs, or building maintenance?
Lab grown meat
This year the US Food and Drug Administration approved the production of lab-grown chicken. If you're in Ontario, you're familiar with the conflict between agricultural land (the so-called "Greenbelt") and other uses such as housing and industrial. Many other regions are wrestling with this same situation; in BC it's known as the "agricultural land reserve," and it's colliding with a rapidly growing region with land scarcity. The possibility of synthetic meat means we can potentially re-imagine land use pretty profoundly, and perhaps deal more effectively with the pressures of a rapidly growing and urbanizing population. Would you eat a lab-grown "chicken"? I think in the end people will become accustomed to the idea even if it seems odd today...
Life on the moon?
Let's talk about the real frontier of real estate... forget secondary markets or the Canadian Arctic after climate change, how about the moon? We know it's possible to go there, but how would we live? This year scientists successfully grew plants in "soil" from the moon - the real thing brought back from the Apollo missions. If there's going to be space colonization, it's going to start on the moon; if we can get food and water, why not? I look forward to Colliers being the first brokerage operating on the moon in the near future.
VR to me is completely over-hyped, and I don't see much real impact (then again you all know I am a dinosaur who doesn't "get" crypto and many other innovations). But I could be wrong, and there's an argument that CRE is one of the biggest use cases for immersive virtual reality. Imagine a developer being able to render a building concept for clients; a hotel chain letting you compare the Caribbean vs Europe as you walk through the resorts; or retailers leveraging VR games and events to get customers engaged. We'll see... Facebook (excuse me, "Meta") has bet the farm on VR and I haven't seen a huge result yet, but I'm not going to rule it out.Read Previous Insights Report