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The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has released its second Sustainability Report, offering recommendations for a range of economic, governmental and technological factors.

The survey of 4,000 RICS members across the world serves as a valuable reference point for policymakers and regulators, highlighting much-needed data to aid widespread behavioural change in the industry.

The global drive for sustainable buildings is clearly seeing an uptick, but RICS points out that there are regional differences hampering cross-national efforts. The report reveals that Europe is leading in green initiatives, but is quick to point out that relying on market demand isn’t as effective as influencing public policy. 

With that in mind, the RICS Sustainability Report looks at the key methods for accelerating decarbonisation, placing an emphasis on consistent standards, relevant skills and information sharing enabled by technological adoption as vital to achieving this goal.

RICS Sustainability Quote - Ann Gray
RICS Sustainability Quote – Ann Gray

Ann Gray, RICS President-Elect, said: “Collaboration and information-sharing are key common elements for addressing climate risk as government incentives around the world remain inconsistent and investor demand is not fully realised.”

Not unlike the 2021 report, the measurement of carbon emissions also appears to be a sticking point for those surveyed. According to the 2022 report, a significant number of professionals revealed, to the surprise of many, that the carbon emissions of projects aren’t measured at all.

Digital adoption in the construction industry

In the global construction industry, feedback collected for the RICS Sustainability Report suggests that professionals are slowly, but surely, beginning to adopt digital tools and technologies for data gathering and sustainability-related analysis.

The report highlights that the majority of these digital tools are primarily used to assess energy costs, rather than to reduce or measure embodied carbon, but nonetheless, they play a significant part in the development of the built environment.

Although many proponents of digital transformation are quick to claim that tech is completely and utterly revolutionising construction, RICS is more reserved in its outlook, stating that there are growing signs of transformation.

“Digital technology adoption is increasing, although there is a long way to go before the sector realises the full benefits of digital transformation. Digital tools and processes are being used to complete environmental and sustainability assessment on projects, but only to a limited extent.”

The report states that approximately 47% of survey respondents use digital tools to complete environmental and sustainability assessments on all or most of their projects. 45% state that digital tools and processes are used on less than half or none of their projects.  

Across Europe and APAC, the number isn’t too dissimilar. Approximately 50% claim the use of digital technology for their assessments, with around 40% saying digital tools are used on less than half or none of their projects. 

In the case of digital technology use for other means, those surveyed were first asked what purposes they are used for. 46% state that digital tools are used to measure and reduce energy needs and costs, or to analyse renewable options. Around 25% state that measuring and minimising waste is a primary use case for digital tools, and 1/5th say that the measurement of indoor air quality and, more broadly, the indoor environment is one of the main aims for tech adoption.

RICS Sustainability Report Chart
RICS Sustainability Report Chart

The barriers to technology adoption

Among a number of principal factors inhibiting technology adoption globally, a handful of common issues arose from the findings of the RICS Sustainability Report. Chiefly among them were a lack of established standards, tools, databases and benchmarks. Approximately 50% of respondents claimed at least one of these as a key obstacle.

These responses will seem familiar to those pushing for the widespread adoption of technology and digital tools as they tend to crop up time and again, with very remedies to the age-old headache of digital transformation in an industry which is, for the most part, resistant to significant change. 

This is evidenced by over 40% of respondents, who claim that established practices and cultural norms are a key inhibitor to technology adoption. Again, a familiar concern that seems to be an omnipresent force in the universal adoption of tech. 

Encouragingly, the drive towards decarbonisation is gathering momentum across the world, and it is, on the whole, in a better place than it has ever been. However, those all too familiar sticking points are standing in between stasis and progress yet again. Although policy and regulation present significant challenges for many across the built environment spectrum, one of the most pressing issues is behavioural change, as evidenced by the findings of RICS in this latest Sustainability Report.

As a supplier of inspection and reporting technology to some of the biggest names in property and surveying, Property Inspect encounters these objections to technology adoption time and again. This is why we place real emphasis on usability and demonstrable efficiency gains, with a hands-on approach to education around the issue of technology adoption in the wider property industry.

If you’d like to learn more about how Property Inspect empowers businesses with intuitive technology, book a demo today.