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Assessing the Disconnect Within the Property Industry

An Analysis of the MIPIM UK Summit

- By Carla Chamberlain -

As some of you may know, I recently had the pleasure of attending the UK’s leading property event – the insightful MIPIM conference. Over the 2 days we heard from some fantastic key note speakers. These experts in their relative fields both informed, and gave insight, into the current trends and the disconnect within the property industry.

The event highlighted what everyone already knows: with the political and economic climate as unstable as it currently is, there are the inevitable issues within the industry. Having had time to digest the plethora of information that was given to us during the two days, I believe that, in spite of the uncertain climate, there are things the industry can do to navigate through this period and continue to thrive.

MIPIM UK Summit the property industry disconnect

It appeared to me that one of the biggest problems within the industry, is that the government requires 300,000 homes a year to be built, and this is currently not being met. I don’t believe that this is solely down to the stalled Brexit deal, nor down to Sadiq Khan, Boris Johnson, or any other politician we’d like to blame. Having heard what was being said at the event, and talking further with my peers, I believe that the crux of the issue is a disconnect within the industry; can architects, developers, investors, & all the in-between, operate in a more collaborative manor to better this housing crisis?

Some developers seem to be intent on opting for short term gains rather than building quality homes using modern methods of technology. As a nation, we should be looking at the bigger picture and investing in quality, durable and efficient homes. In such a competitive market it is imperative we ensure we are working with developers interested in building quality products, using quality materials and pioneering methods of construction in order to stay modern and efficient. 

Japan’s house building methods are 40 years ahead of us, why is this? We need to be looking outside our current sphere, and really understand how we can close this gap, and work closely with the most innovative developers to ensure our survival. 

Tying in with the idea of the need for modernisation of the construction industry, was what I saw as another part of this disconnect within the industry: A resistance from the property industry as a whole to move with the times in terms of technology. Mark Farmer, current client of Oyster, and the founding Director and CEO of Cast Consultancy, delivered an extremely interesting talk, discussing how the use of modern methods of construction within the UK has progressed over the past three years falling in line with the release of Mark’s much lauded Farmer Review. Mark addressed the importance that these relatively new types of innovation must be responsible, moving the industry forward one step at a time. He stressed that new technologies must be tested in order to gain the trust of investors and consumers in order to progress successfully. 

MIPIM Summit property industry disconnect in the country

One of the other presentations which really stood out for me was on mental health within real estate. Shockingly, there is more than one suicide a day in construction in the UK. Until very recently there was limited awareness of mental health issues within this industry, and even now it’s still seen as rather a taboo subject. Investment in staff’s wellbeing and mental health is of the utmost importance and is something that the industry really must continue to build on and have an open discussion around, in order to stay current and increase productivity.

The overarching theme of the presentation was that there several different areas which can affect mental health including, external factors such as air pollution and noise pollution, as well as some factors much easier to control and closer to home such as long hours being worked in the workplace, employees not getting enough sleep, offices not being well designed and a lack of natural light.  They also mentioned that many people felt they weren’t able to talk to anyone if they were struggling. It lead me to wonder – are we paying enough attention to firstly our own mental health and wellbeing and well as those around us? Just last week Estates Gazette launched a mental health programme and the RICS charity Lionheart have a helpline which surveyors can call. Both initiatives are extremely welcome within the industry and show that people are noticing the struggles and prepared to do something to help. 

I would say that in spite of the current difficulties in the market, (there is no doubt that not agreeing a Brexit deal will continue to make things difficult in the short term) there is still a huge amount of opportunity. Although the occupation market is currently at a record low of 4% unemployment, the event highlighted that some boroughs in London are still responsible for producing as much GDP as Wales, so here in London there is still huge cause for optimism and growth within our sector.

I believe that by investing in staff, technology and encouraging open and honest discussion between all of the cogs that make up the property industry machine, together we can join the dots and work to unite the disconnect. 

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