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News & opinion

22 MAR 2018

Writing the next human chapter

In 2007, the proportion of the world’s population that lived in cities passed 50% for the first time. Urban populations are now set to grow by over two billion people in the next 30 years.

As the UN’s director of population, John Wilmoth, said, “managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century.”

Land, property and construction are fundamental to growth, and RICS professionals play a vital role in planning, developing and managing the infrastructure and buildings that growing communities need.

Pace of growth

Besides using numbers, it’s difficult to appreciate the pace of growth in the built environment. Except, perhaps, from the vantage of space. Since Google Earth first started beaming images to computers fifteen years ago, cities like Seoul, Mexico City and Mumbai have crept far into their surrounding hills and countryside.

Using Google Earth Engine's time lapse app, we can even see the human spread in motion. Back on the ground, technological innovations affecting urban life, such as energy storage and transportation, are changing how we behave in cities. With driverless Uber vehicles, car ownership might soon become the exception. Deliveroo bikers serving gourmet dishes could relegate cooking at home to just special occasions.

The way we plan and develop our cities must evolve. Radical innovations entering the market are likely to disrupt business models, requiring practitioners to adapt to new paradigms. As custodians and shapers of the built environment, RICS practitioners are well placed to shape these changes. Simultaneously, there will be commercial opportunities in ensuring cities are places where people can thrive.

Crucially, we must both learn from our allied professions and share our knowledge to address our common challenges.

World Built Environment Forum

From achieving energy efficiency to constructing affordable homes, we’ll have much greater success if we work together. That’s why I’m eager to hear from Tesla’s co-founder, JB Straubel at the World Built Environment Forum Summit in April in London.

Cities succeed when people want to live there; when the opportunities in business, culture, and people are compelling enough to outweigh the inevitable challenges of urban life.

We know that cities will be the focus of next chapter of the human story but the pages have yet to be written. I hope you will join us at the World Built Environment Forum Summit next month, where the world’s best minds in tech, property, finance and engineering will help us to discern where the plot is leading.