Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon and took humanity’s first steps beyond the Earth. This was one of the 20th century’s greatest scientific and engineering achievements - but what if I told you a surveyor made it to the moon first?
We remember the Apollo Program through its stories of success and sacrifice. Yet it was the Surveyor Program – a series of unmanned missions to map the Moon – which first scouted locations where astronauts could land safely.
Apollo 11’s lander touched down 25 km away from the site where Surveyor 5 had landed two years earlier. By the time Surveyor 5’s mission had ended, it had returned thousands of pictures of the lunar surface - similar to how RICS professionals are using drones to gather data today. It was this crucial environmental and topographical data that allowed Armstrong and Aldrin to fulfil NASA’s great ambition on behalf of 3.6 billion people back on Earth.
This achievement raises an important question for our profession today: as we look to the future of surveying, what skills and talents will we need to possess to solve the problems of the 21st century, and why?
Our answer begins with a challenge. By 2050, our industry needs to find solutions to how the planet can accommodate almost triple the amount of people who were alive when we first reached the Moon. We will need new talent to help us achieve this objective in a sustainable manner.
The Global Footprint Network calculated that we are consuming the Earth’s resources 1.7 times faster than its natural replacement rate. The global built environment industry is a massive contributor to this problem as, according to the UN, it currently consumes one-third of all energy, and produces just over one-third of all CO2 emissions.
Together, these factors put great pressure on our industry to increase the rate of change. There is huge demand for bright young people from the broadest reaches of our societies around the world to enter our practices. They are the future of our profession. We will need them to challenge our conventions and ensure that we evolve in sync with the communities we serve.
The significant challenges of this century have already inspired some excellent ideas in the built and natural environment, many that address the problems inherent of a busier world. Many professionals are also developing business models that promise to disrupt real estate – a market that represents around 70% of global wealth – and pivot it towards a greener future.
Many professionals are also developing business models that promise to disrupt real estate – a market that represents around 70% of global wealth – and pivot it towards a greener future.
The task of landing people on the Moon represented more than just a show of scientific achievement. It was a unifying challenge that refocused the energies of a nation into developing skills that could solve contemporary problems, and accelerate the pace of change.
Today, galvanised by the desire to create a more sustainable built world, we as a global profession must focus on raising another generation of innovators who will adopt relevant ideas to lead that change.
We also need those people to champion these ideas in our own organisation. This new way of thinking must now underpin the reconstituted strategy body of RICS Governing Council, which we are holding elections for this October. I fully believe that with your support and involvement in these elections, we can guarantee our profession continues to lead in providing confidence in the built and natural environment, ensuring the communities we serve around the world succeed for decades to come. Have your say in shaping our future at rics.org/elections.
This article originally appeared in the Talent issue of Modus (September 2019)
Chris Brooke FRICS
Chris is the Co-Founder of Brooke Husband Limited, a consulting firm based in Hong Kong which provides strategic market insight, development consulting and investment advisory services to real estate owners, developers and investors throughout the Asia Pacific region.
Chris is also an Independent Non-Executive Director of Link Asset Management Limited, the manager of Link Real Estate Investment Trust.
Chris has 28 years of experience in various fields of the property industry, including 12 years with CBRE during which he held senior management roles in both China and Asia, as well as overseeing consulting activities throughout Asia Pacific.
Chris was previously the Chair of the RICS Asia Pacific World Regional Board, and was RICS Senior Vice President from June 2016 to November 2017.