The NextGen International Talent Taskforce is a collaboration between IE University’s School of Architecture and Design and CPA NextGen to promote international talent exchange and foster discussions related to the real estate industry. This “working group of NextGen professionals”—which includes alumni from IE University—meets bimonthly to discuss important topics such as sustainability, inclusivity, technology, cities and wellbeing.

Through these conversations, the overall goal is to “guide the future of cities and ensure they are vibrant world-class places for business.” On June 22, the taskforce brought together 15 professionals from France, Spain, the UK, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and South Africa to talk about sustainability in urban settings.

Real Estate and Urban Design

With individuals representing a range of companies such as Hines, Gloval, Foster+ Partners, Martin Lejarraga, Allies and Morrison, Gardiner and Theobald, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Momentum Transport and Selfmastered, to name a few, the discussion featured insights from a wide variety of perspectives and touched on some of the sector’s most pressing issues.

Transport was another popular focus, with Fatima Abel from Allies and Morrison highlighting the use of scooters and bikes. Amélie Cossé from Momentum, however, chose to approach transport from a more logistical perspective, talking about a shift in deliveries, which should be “planned in a more forward-thinking way.”

After the introduction, the discussion moved on to a number of challenges and emerging solutions within real estate. Keeping with the topic of sustainability, the popularity of material upcycling in construction sites is increasing, with Theo Pagnon and Hamish Crockett from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners noting that they managed to use secondhand materials in raised access floors. Technology could be a key factor in promoting this business model, with blockchain cited as a potential tool to “issue and track bonds and forecast the upcoming stock of materials.” Long-life materials such as steel were also mentioned as more sustainable alternatives.

Courtesy of IE School of Architecture and Design
Courtesy of IE School of Architecture and Design
Technology and Information

The theme of technology came up throughout the meeting, with the group talking about creating a digital twin of a building as a way to monitor surplus materials. The consensus among the members was that this method, feeding on the building information modeling (BIM), even though promising for the industry does not yet meet operational needs. One of the explanations is due to a lack of software being able to translate the information created during the construction phase, and stored in the BIM Model, into proper operational data to then be re-used by the building teams. As new technologies are being developed to help connect the dots, the building ecosystem of tenants, asset managers, property managers, and facility managers will soon be able to overlay additional layers of information (such as sensor data or material passports) to it and will start viewing the digital twin concept as a more viable solution going forward.”

This balance between a digital ideal and materialized reality turned into a broader discussion, leading to the challenges of futuristic cities, spearheaded by Alphabet. Here, the issue involves data protection, data privacy and other innovation-based obstacles. In the case of Imperial College London, their efforts to innovate with the smart White City Campus faced regulatory issues. The argument was put forward that the boundaries of regulation need to be pushed—especially with regard to providing gas supply.

Another important topic addressed in the meeting was the ability to leverage information. In general, the handover of information is seen as difficult, with some suggesting a gamified approach alongside the digital book. As the discussion drew to a close, the group decided upon a number of next steps to raise awareness of the taskforce, including a 30-minute podcast, articles and interviews. For the next meeting, participants agreed to continue with the topic of sustainability, with specific subtopics determined by the team organizers.