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RICS report: take action & prepare for global change

05 Jun 2015

Professionals in the built environment sector must take concerted action to prepare for the unprecedented global change the sector will face up to 2030. 

Changing technologies and the ability to stay attuned to new innovations that impact on the sector are some of the important trends identified by professionals interviewed for this report.

This emerged from a new Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) report, entitled ‘Our Changing World: Let’s be ready’. The report examines how global social and economic changes will require new skills, business models and responses to developing technologies over the next 15 years. 

This is according to TC Chetty, RICS Country Manager for South Africa, who says significant shifts in demographics, levels of urbanisation and economic power will impact on how and where we live. 

While the full impact of these changes is impossible to predict, RICS as a global professional body must lead the sector in being responsive and agile in how it prepares the profession to meet these changes, he says.  

“This report draws on the views and perspectives of stakeholders from diverse specialisms and geographies across the surveying profession, globally. It captures the insights and expectations of what they project the most pertinent issues on the horizon will be leading to 2030.” 

Through workshops, public forums and one-on-one interviews, more than 400 people from Africa, Asia, North America, South America and Europe shared their outlook of what the future may look like, he says. 

“The report identifies six areas of action geared to the short to medium term that will support the profession and the sector in preparing for the challenges and opportunities these changes will generate.” 

These actions include: 

Helping the sector win the war for talent

Employers globally are faced with the need to maintain and retain a talent pool that is more diverse, inclusive and has the skills required to benefit the sector. A key endeavour is to attract talent that will meet the sector’s needs.

Having ethics at the heart of everything 

Ethics is central to professional behavior within the built environment and related professions. RICS is currently working with a coalition of organisations to agree on a global set of International Ethics Standards (IES) that seeks to create high-level principles for global ethics. RICS is also working with the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) to formulate best practices for business within the sector to meet global sustainability targets. 

Creating successful and sustainable future cities 

At present 54% of the world’s population lives in cities. This is expected to rise to 66% by 2050, according to projections by the United Nations. The profession has an important contribution to make in helping cities ensure that they become more resilient, sustainable and affordable for future generations. 

Embracing technology and big data 

Changing technologies and the ability to stay attuned to new innovations that impact on the sector are some of the important trends identified by professionals interviewed for this report. Development in digital technologies will impact on the creation of new business streams, the need for different skills and competencies and bring new risks with it. 

Helping the surveying profession take new opportunities

The major social and economic changes expected over the next few years will mean that surveyors, globally, will be required to adapt and hone their skills. The goal is to create a more dynamic profession with the ability to respond to market changes and the wider society in which it operates. RICS expects fields such as infrastructure, workplace, finance and technology to require more professionals, and for Asia to be the region with the strongest demand. 

Developing strong leadership 

Leadership is another issue professionals have themselves chosen as one that is central to an evolving profession. Many highlighted the need for the sector to work closer with governments to give the built environment a greater voice in influencing policy.  

This report aims to identify the implications of rapid change for the built environment sector and aims to stimulate debate among practitioners in this sector and beyond. While this research report has been undertaken by RICS, CEO Sean Tompkins says the insights gathered apply to other sectors as well. 

He says as a body that represents many of the professional disciplines so integral to the built environment, RICS can play an important role as a catalyst to bring people and organisations together, support businesses and ensure professionals in the built environment develop and further build on the skills needed to remain relevant in the future. 

He says they recognise that they cannot achieve this alone, it’s about collaboration; this report is an open invitation for firms, organisations and individuals who want to help ensure the sector is fit for future generations. 

RICS global president, Louise Brooke-Smith, says adapting to change is necessary for any organisation to remain relevant in a changing world. 

“The Futures Project allows us to focus our energies, as an organisation and as a sector, on a path to 2030 that is attuned to the necessary skills, developing technologies and remedial actions needed to respond to a modern and changing world.” 

It’s about remaining relevant as an organisation and as a sector and ensuring we attract and retain the best talent, says Brooke-Smith. 

The report’s author and RICS director of strategy, Dan Cook, says the changes that the sector faces means surveyors globally will have to adapt their methods to stay relevant to the profession and society at large. 

He says what has struck him during this work is the fast pace of change that they are seeing. He says their sector will need to invest more in its people and new skills. 

Boosting leadership, innovation, ethics, sustainability and commercial acumen will help the sector be able to adapt and succeed as business models, technology and societal expectations change. 

With the rise in use of tools such as ‘Building Information Modelling’, increasing their capacity to collect and share data, new technology emerging in both their built and natural environments such as the ‘Internet of Things and 3D printing’, standing still is not an option. 

Professions like theirs, educators and firms will need to change to embrace roles and skills that have not even been imagined today in the period to 2030, he says.

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