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News & opinion

30 JUL 2018

The Future of the Profession

Fundamental disruption to long-established status-quos within the built and natural environments is changing the industry at a rate faster than ever before. As a professional body, we have a responsibility to lead, through both ideas and actions.

Professionals of the future will be required to not only find ways of streamlining today’s processes but also to deliver today’s outcomes in radically new ways.

We are seeing a digital revolution, a climate emergency and a demographic time bomb. Urbanisation is the most striking phenomenon of the last century with the world’s urban population rising by an average of 65 million people a year over the last three decades. Globalisation has accelerated more rapidly than anyone could have predicted. All of these megatrends bring with them huge social and economic consequences.

Although these changes come with vast opportunities, there is a real risk that if we don’t seize them now, we will sleepwalk into a crisis we all foresaw. We are therefore looking at trends within the marketplace for insight into how the profession must adapt so that it can continue serving the public interest in the decades to come.

We are seeing a digital revolution, a climate emergency and a demographic time bomb. Urbanisation is the most striking phenomenon of the last century with the world’s urban population rising by an average of 65 million people a year over the last three decades.

Get involved

At our World Built Environment Forum Summit in London, Tesla’s Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel told our industry that we need a new leadership pace. Tesla didn’t wait for the green light – they pioneered a new industry. Now, we’re asking you to showcase other ways that industry professionals are crucial in helping to resolve the challenges the built and natural environments face under each of the following five megatrends:

1. Technological innovation

Artificial intelligence as a sophisticated human is a realistic prospect. 33 million autonomous vehicles will be sold globally up from 51,000 in 2021. Cryptocurrency will be a standard payment method alongside regular currency. We will be using in excess of 170 billion internet connected personal devices. Constant personalisation of workplaces, enabled by technology, will be the norm. (CBRE). How is technology being used to solve real problems within the built and natural environments today? How are people overcoming the challenges around the use of technology today to avoid unintended consequences and ensure a future that is safe and secure for future generations?

Discover how technological innovations are changing surveying

2. Urbanisation

Globally, three million people move to urban areas every week. Our cities are struggling to cope with what is one of the defining challenges of our time, and huge demands are being placed on infrastructure, services, housing, transportation and the environment. How can we ensure cities are designed in a way that is inclusive for everyone living within them? What measures can be taken to ensure they are developed in a sustainable way? How can we make cities liveable?

Learn more about the challenges and opportunities of urbanisation

3. Climate change and resource scarcity

Changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to reduce agricultural productivity by a third across large parts of Africa over the next 60 years. We will run out of natural resources to construct or maintain buildings long before demand has finished with the rate of urban development. How can we change the practices so that what is developed is sustainable and leaves resources for future generations? Who are the disruptors and how do we champion new methods and resources that may make minerals and mining obsolete (before they run out)?

Explore the issues impacting the natural environment

4. Changing demographics

By 2035, the number of over-60s in London alone is expected to rise by 48%, and the over-80s group is set to increase by 70%. Assumptions that retirees will move (or can be moved) to the country are outdated: increasingly, older people are choosing to remain in cities. Our spaces shape us. How can we create spaces that work for everyone? How can we ensure social infrastructure reflects ageing populations? How can we ensure workplaces are designed in such a way that accommodates 4 generations of workers?

5. Globalisation

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected as a result of massively increased trade and cultural exchange. It is opening up new lines of communication and helping us gain new perspectives about the world. At the same time, globalisation is increasing political uncertainty which is translating directly into business uncertainty. How do businesses around the world mitigate the risks and capitalise on the opportunities that globalisation presents? How can we ensure investment can flow between borders? Global standards become increasingly important as businesses cross borders and cultures. How can we ensure the public interest remains at the heart of everything we do? Are there examples of collaborating with others to help reach common goals more quickly? 

Share your case studies

If you’re working on a project that you’d like to share as a case study, please fill in the Future of the Profession Case Study Form and email it to us. Although we will not be able to feature them all, we would love to hear how you’re making the most of the opportunities that the above trends are bringing.

Download the Case Study Form (0.10MB)

Email your case study

Emerging themes so far

  • We must ensure we put ethics at the heart of our decision-making. When we do this, we put the interests of the public and our planet first.
  • We need to become much more obsessed by the things that benefit people; their health, wellbeing and productivity, and how technology can enable that.
  • While the future of cities is in vogue, we should instead be focussing on the future of people. We should want to know how an intelligent city can learn from and adapt to those that walk its streets and work in its buildings. Smart technology is enabling our built environment to think, but our goal should be for it to understand.

The path isn’t easy, but it will be rewarding. By being wise stewards for our sector, we can start to overcome the challenges facing the built and natural environments and begin making important decisions that affect us all.

Explore the topics and trends shaping the future of the profession