As we step into 2024, the built environment, historically characterised by its tangible bricks and mortar, is poised to embrace the intangible yet transformative potential of technology. Here are my four predictions for 2024 in how we’ll use tech:

1. We Start Applying GenAI Properly

There’s been a lot of excitement about generative AI. But knowing where it makes sense to use it has been elusive for many in the built environment. Applying Large Language Models (LLMs) to look for conflicts in design specifications, or to allow large unstructured data sets to come together to ask informed questions about a building (when was X fan coil unit last serviced?) seems to be some of the most valuable uses. By the end of 2024, most will have their first draft list of their most valuable use cases.

2. There are More In-House Teams Formed

As smart buildings and cities become more mainstream, organisations will begin to worry about corporate know-how and having access to the right skills, on-demand. Today, most rely on external expertise to design, deliver and operate their smart assets. As the skills for smart are required more and more, companies will need to build in-house teams as a way of meeting increased organisational demand and so that can help ween their way off consultants.

3. Rationalisation of the PropTech Start-Up Market

With deal-making at a low, reducing asset values and a high cost of capital, the recent boom we’ve experienced of PropTech start-ups, driven by a surge in demand for innovative solutions, will give way to a more measured phase. Now that funding is running out, many are in for a bumpy ride as they are forced into demonstrating self-sustaining profits rather than artificial growth. Those who can’t will simply disappear. Those with the best technologies and potential are likely to be purchased by larger companies looking to add to their capabilities. This rationalisation of vendors is not a sign of decline, but rather an evolution. In the early days, the market saw a proliferation of companies, each eager to capitalise on emerging trends like IoT, remote work, or AI-driven property management. However, as the dust settles, it's becoming evident that not all of these ventures have sustainable or distinct business models.

4. 2025 Net Zero Carbon Targets Get Pushed Out

As we navigate the post-pandemic landscape, it's becoming increasingly clear that even the most ambitious front-runners in net zero carbon operations, originally targeting 2025, are facing the inevitability of revised timelines. The pandemic, an unforeseen global disruptor, has not just altered timelines but has also reshaped priorities and resource allocations across industries.

During the height of the pandemic, many businesses and construction projects had to pivot rapidly, focusing on immediate survival and operational continuity, often at the expense of long-term sustainability goals. Now that we’re already in 2024, many are faced with the prospect of missing their deadline with their big plans being unable to be executed in only a year - especially set in the context of a subdued market. This delay to achieving net zero carbon emissions has allowed many companies and their supporting designers to be able to embed low-carbon design better into their DNA.

The combination of these four predictions will mean that navigating the already noisy PropTech market will become even trickier. I expect that some clear leaders will emerge by the end of the year that will shape the next era of market leadership.

In Dr Marson’s monthly column, he’ll be chronicling his thoughts and opinions on the latest developments, trends, and challenges in the Smart Buildings industry and the wider world of construction. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, you're sure to find something of interest here.

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About the author:

Matthew Marson is an experienced leader, working at the intersection of technology, sustainability, and the built environment. He was recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering as Young Engineer of the Year for his contributions to the global Smart Buildings industry. Having worked on some of the world’s leading smart buildings and cities projects, Matthew is a keynote speaker at international industry events related to emerging technology, net zero design and lessons from projects. He was an author in the Encyclopaedia of Sustainable Technologies and a published writer in a variety of journals, earning a doctorate in Smart Buildings.