Industry Insights

Looking Ahead: The Commercial Real Estate Industry in 2020

The commercial real estate industry has evolved dramatically in recent years. We’ve seen the rise of “smart buildings” with advanced AI and IoT technology. The tenant experience has become a top priority for developers, architects, and building owners alike. And concern for sustainability has led to a surge in green certifications such as LEED and Net-Zero Energy. In fact, the U.S. Green Building Council just announced its 100,000th LEED certified project and 100th LEED certified city (Atlanta).

As we move into 2020, we make three predictions about the future of the commercial real estate industry.

#1: IoT Technology Takes Center Stage  

Improving and personalizing the tenant experience continues to be a primary focus for developers, architects, and building managers. The industry is embracing automation, particularly through IoT technology, to make the indoor environment as comfortable as possible. This technology can benefit everyone from patients in hospitals, to students in university buildings, to employees in offices.

With IoT, all systems in a building work together to provide an optimal indoor experience. In many smart buildings, occupants can even control their environment through voice controls. We expect this trend to continue to build in 2020. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, 42 percent of 750 CRE executives polled expect a moderate increase in tenant experience-related technology over the next year and a half.1

#2: Recycled Materials Gain Momentum  

While the energy efficiency of building systems like HVAC and lighting continue to be important, we’re also seeing a growing emphasis on the sustainability of the materials selected for construction. Moving into 2020, we expect the industry to pay more attention to the percentage of both recycled components and embodied carbon in building materials. This focus will be vital to the increased sustainability of buildings.

Many of us in the glass industry are working towards circular economy. We want to ensure that glass, as well as other building materials, is recycled and that new materials are made with a very high percentage of recycled materials. Whether we produce glass for an airport terminal or a hospital, the materials should have a future beyond the reasonable use phase in that building.

#3: Building Facades Go Dynamic  

A building facade is not just about aesthetics or protection from the elements anymore. We expect facades to become increasingly dynamic. “We’re at a very exciting time right now,” says Alan McLenaghan, CEO, SageGlass. “The dynamic nature of facades is becoming exciting ... thinking of facades not only as static things, but as living, changeable facades.”

As part of this trend, we expect facades will incorporate photovoltaics to generate energy. For example, by harnessing energy from the sun, a dynamic facade could generate enough power to charge the cellphones and laptops of everyone in a building.

Further, we predict digital signage will grow in popularity, whether that’s an exterior-facing window that becomes a digital “billboard” visible to passersby on the street, or a pane of glass that tints to become a presentation screen in a boardroom. While we can’t begin to imagine all the applications of dynamic facades, we are excited about the possibilities. 

Over the last decade, the commercial real estate industry has made great strides in sustainability and brought cutting-edge products to the market, including advanced smart glass solutions. As we look toward the 2020s, we expect developers to take sustainability, innovation, and occupant comfort to the next level.