Ep 27: How are digital maps changing real estate?
Investors and occupiers are turning to digital maps to aid them in their decision-making.
Meet our speakers
Travis is responsible for empowering JLL’s workforce, from agents to valuers, with mapping technology for enhanced data visualisation. Prior to JLL, Travis provided geospatial consulting for environmental and social impact assessment studies globally, as well as for local government projects.
Real estate professionals have never had such an array of tools and information to help them in their decision making. In particular, digital maps which are turning numbers on a spreadsheet into 3D replicas of buildings or entire landscapes.
In this episode we explore how tools such as building information modelling or BIM, geospatial technology, and laser scanning are prompting investors and occupiers to give spreadsheets the ol’ heave ho for a more insightful visualization of their real estate interests.
I’m Rebecca Kent, host of this JLL Perspectives podcast. And here are my guests:
Travis Brousseau. I'm the ANZ GIS lead. And what that means, is just using geospatial technology throughout Australia, New Zealand - it could be on the data side, it could be on the application side. The main component is helping our business internally at JLL and that flows through to our clients as well.
My name is Mark Hamilton. I'm head of our digital solutions group in Middle East and Africa. And I'm also lead for a product we developed out of the region called Prism, which is a geospatial digital twin application.
Mark, talk to me about mapping technology is. What is being mapped and how?
Mapping technology is broad term. I would explain it as utilising technology to capture data from the real world and then being able to import that into software.
There are a number of different types of mapping. For example, in our region, we're doing something called lidar (light detection and ranging) scanning, which is a way of using lasers to capture the interior and exterior of buildings, then importing that into 3D drafting software, such as BIM, to create a replica of those buildings.
So that would be 3D building mapping. In addition to that you can also do mapping of sections, or cities, which can be done via drone utilising similar technology - either lidar scanning, or what's called photogrammetry. You can create a mash or replica of the of a city and then mapping that into GIS software.
Travis, I guess the most powerful thing about the way these technologies are being applied in real estate is the visualization, right? Sure, you could check out the data they use, and they produce in an Excel spreadsheet, but the visualization is the game changer.
Yeah. Recent technology improvements have changed the perception that some applications are just for a technical professional with a high-end computer punching high-quality images showing development pipelines or certain financial information throughout a building level or a precinct. The idea is now everyone can tackle that and just use the technology from the comfort of their internet browser.
For investors and occupiers, Mark, where is digital mapping technology delivering the most return on investment?
We're having more requests for supply and demand mapping of city office space, or residential supply and demand mapping. This allows large-scale developers to predict what sort of assets they should develop, in what timeline, how their assets should be priced, and what the target markets for different asset classes could be.
Right, so a developer might like to know what the demand is for a certain type of office in a particular area? And what the development pipeline looks like?
So one government client of ours in Abu Dhabi, for example, is looking into mapping the entire city of Abu Dhabi – that’s all the existing office space and residential space. We’ll 3D map it within GIS, and from there we can determine what the profile of tenants are in different buildings, what the occupancy rate of those buildings are, and the cost per square metre of that space historically and currently.
Because GIS applications and 3D mapping technology are now at a place where they can be imported into the same application, you can drive insights. We're seeing more clients use this as the industry standard of how they evaluate markets and how they make decisions about developing or optimising their own portfolios.
Travis, you've done some similar mapping with the City of Melbourne, in Australia, right?
For the city of Melbourne, we began mapping the development pipeline for multiple asset classes - so office, residential, hotels and student accommodation. We started there as kind of a 3D exercise just to show that was a good storytelling product, and one that we could use for a lot of our client meetings and in pitches. With the awesome response we got from that, we decided to nationalise it and we’ve now mapped all the Australian capital cities.
We've not only mapped the development pipeline in those cities, but we've also mapped the existing stock that meets a certain criteria. For example, the larger office buildings, as well as the residential buildings, hotels and student accommodation buildings that meet a certain threshold.
This is something we teamed up with the research team to be able to do. I'd argue that to just display this information as a dot on a 2D map sounds okay. But if you have the technology, why not display it in a 3D environment where it really accelerates some of that decision-making and analytics?
You’ve told me previously, Travis, that you’d like to see that mapping technology advance to gather a much fuller picture of buildings in the context of their landscape?
Yeah, I like to call it the micro and macro view in the use of technology. So I see the macro view as looking at, let's say, all of City of Sydney. We see that beautiful skyline, and maybe there's some information about certain precincts, we zoom in a little bit, we can click on a building, understand the metrics behind that building, and then we can hopefully dive into that building a bit, and explore those floors.
So exploring the floors where we understand who is there? How does that that floorplan look and what tenants are there. And not only getting this information mixed with this exterior view, but this interior, this micro view of what's going on in that particular building. I think it's kind of the blending of the best of both worlds there. That city-wide view, the precinct view is fantastic for many reasons. But when you need to drill down into a building, you want to have that intelligence there, and you want to have a really nice platform to view it. That could be seeing Matterport imagery, that could be seeing BIM models, that can be seeing any kind of live information that that might be there, too.
How does that aspiration resonate with you, Mark?
With the Matterport technology, we're using this quite heavily with some of our clients across the Middle East. In one particular case, we had a government entity within Saudi Arabia that was holding a large number of palaces and wanted to convert them into boutique hotels.
So we use this Matterport scanning and then created an asset register. So a list of all of the critical, cultural assets, because these are a palaces that had paintings or other assets of like cultural importance - fancy rugs and things like this, as well as the mechanical equipment, and then created an asset register, which was linked to Matterport. And then it allowed them and us to assist them in having the palaces redesigned by international design consultants that never had to go into the palaces in Saudi Arabia.
That sounds pretty neat. Not least because palaces are such an exotic concept in Australia. It would be great if you could also elaborate on a project – the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, where you pulled out the lidar scanning, and the building information modelling and the return on investment was significant.
It was a mixed-use development in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It consisted of 48 buildings or 33 million square feet. The ownership had changed hands from one governmental entity in in Riyadh to another. It was a maybe a three-year period of time where development had stopped.
As JLL was involved in many different aspects, from operational strategy, to development, we had maybe 150 people deployed with that with that developer. But we went in and saw it as an ability to do the lidar scanning, and then produce BIM as a way to quantify the existing conditions of the building, what was handed over from one entity, what was the current completion status of the construction, so when you're going through the contracting process of getting new contractors back on, or new designers, it's very quantifiable. Otherwise, to have a resource go and evaluate the buildings and try and include that into their tender processes would be very difficult.
So in one way, it helped the procurement process of getting the buildings back into finishing the construction, because before it was about 75 percent complete. And then another major benefit was moving into operation. So there were 48 buildings, eight of which were substantially completed. But because the contractors had left the site without a formal handover process, we were able to, from the BIM process, produce very standardised asset registers and handover information. And then that information we were able to import directly into the operational software.
So that was a scope of work, which didn't have to be with the operations team, and it saved quite a lot of resources.
Mark, moving on to big data: traffic volumes, or temperatures and climate change. How is this being tracked and mapped and influencing property decisions? Or how can it be?
With applications like Uber, we can procure data that allows us to understand people movement patterns. I think you're seeing it more for developments of certain cities that have areas are designated for pedestrian or bicycle traffic, or scooter traffic, so they're limiting cars going into certain areas, which will create additional congestion.
I think if you look at it from LEED certification standard, they're giving additional credits to being closer to public transportation, to have additional bicycle parking. A lot of the additional information about the construction of the buildings, it gives additional credit for having locally-sourced material, which will have smaller impact on overall carbon emissions via the transportation of the building materials. So if you look at it I think it's the same way where it should be holistic approach.
Thanks, Mark. Hey, Travis, what excites you about this digital mapping technology and the direction that it’s going?
I think that digital twin is going to get more impressive as time goes by. I think the realism of it is going to look better and better. An existing building from the outside is going to look exactly what it is with your own two eyes, compared to you know, when you go inside, you have a very extensive understanding either via BIM or Matterport or whatever kind of resource there is.
I'd say that realism mixed with all this live data together. Imagine having this real-time view of the city. That's been a common theme that we've heard from the business here in Australia and New Zealand - a real-time view of the city. That could be that 3D city model, that exterior view. But also when you drill into that building, you'll have up-to-date in information about leases, building material and so forth. I think it's all going to be tied together and be quite accurate and the realism is going to be next level.
Thanks, Travis. And Mark. What developments can you see coming up on the horizon in this space?
I think it's getting different tech players involved in the industry. Microsoft is quite interested, and the same as IBM, with their cloud computing and cloud hosting and initiatives for the development of digital twins. So I think that's a pretty exciting development. Also, we're doing work with Epic Games. Epic Games has billions of dollars in revenue based on some of the highest-producing games, for example, one is called Fortnite, which many people know. They're reinvesting some of this revenue into the digital twin space. So now they're giving grants for people that will use their unreal visualization engine, which is one of their products, for digital twin applications. So we actually won a US$100,000 grant from Epic Games so we can import some of our GIS scene layers and other datasets into their Unreal Engine. So the grant is for focused development of a product that is working towards their initiatives.
So I think when you start to see cloud computing, Epic Games, and world-class visualization engines, combined with newer technologies, one of which is called pixel streaming, which allows for high resolution data to be streamed to computer over web application, these things to me are really exciting.
Well that is very cool. That brings us to the end of our chat. Travis Brousseau and Mark Hamilton, of JLL, thank you for joining the Perspectives podcast.
If you, listeners, would like to know more about how digital mapping can transform the way you are interacting with real estate, or would like to know more about what Mark and Travis can do, pop on over to jll.com.au/perspectives-podcast where you can get in touch with either of them. Conveniently, you can also check out other episodes of this podcast.
And if you’re listening to us via Spotify, Google, Apple or other major streaming platforms, hit the follow, or download buttons to keep track of new episodes as they drop.
I’m Rebecca Kent, content director at JLL. Thank you for listening.
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