Technology

10 Transformative Shifts Alter Homebuilding By 2030: #9

Where data, technology, and machine learning serve a step-change role in homebuilding and development: dispute resolution.

Technology

10 Transformative Shifts Alter Homebuilding By 2030: #9

Where data, technology, and machine learning serve a step-change role in homebuilding and development: dispute resolution.

December 23rd, 2021
10 Transformative Shifts Alter Homebuilding By 2030: #9
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A big question among housing's leaders – in the early-innings cascade of strategic actions and reactions ignited by the pandemic – sounded roughly this way:

Which of these Covid-era business-driving trends is new? And, which of them was already in motion, but now has dramatically accelerated?"

Despite the global supply chain meltdown, American housing's astonishing multi-trillion-dollar ecosystem zoomed forward in 2021. It did so largely because people – leaders and front-line workers -- across the real estate and building lifecycle locked arms to give the many hundreds of thousands of households looking for a new place to live more direct and friendly control over the process of securing a home of their choice.

A misconception, though, is that innovation is only all about tools, technologies, data, machine learning, materials sciences, robotics, physical performance and capability. It's not. It's also about our own constructs; our beliefs; our practices; how we work at things; how we work with each other.

How we solve disputes, perhaps the biggest question for any leader at the enterprise level in housing, development, capital investment, building materials manufacturing and distribution.

Pandemic-era technology gives us a jumpstart

Strides in applied technology and data solutions – far too rare prior to Covid despite all the batting around they got as good ideas – meaningfully brought home buying and renting into the present from where it had been, trapped in archaic, tediously-numbing rules and practices. Safe to say, almost every person or household looking to move or start a household to buy or to rent, can likely enjoy an engage, search, find, and settle experience quite different than was widely accessible to them two or three years ago.

Here's a statement, from Eli Dourado, economist and senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University:

How did the most dynamic country on the planet become so sclerotic? We did it to ourselves. We enacted laws that privilege the status quo at the expense of change and progress. We liberally passed out veto rights to anyone with the money and wherewithal to hire a lawyer. If we want to reverse the damage and create a more prosperous future, we must make it easy to build."

Contrast that statement with what has happened, even in the past few months' time:

Across the end-to-end continuum of real estate and construction's value chain – whether it's this plug-and-play duct system that changes the game in how to vent airflow in and out of homes, or this simplified livability solution to elevate the new home move-in experience, or treating home searchers as the high-net investment clients they are, or bringing online-dating-like matching and machine learning tools to land selections; or applying similar algorithms of consumer preference and value to strategic design, operational workflows,  sourcing and just-in-time assembly; or this freshly relevant capital investment approach for owner-operators to "take chips off the table" even as they retain the reins of their operations – builders and their ecosystem partners in development, capital investment, manufacturing, distribution, technology, and data services are doing their part to, as Dourado notes, "make it easy to build."

So, here's the rub.

Transformation Trend No. 9 – Conflict, data and tech converge

Assertion: Residential real estate and construction business stakeholders tend to and need to evolve improved conflict-resolution practices to thrive. Even as data and technology tools serve to remove friction from buyer-seller processes, winners in homebuilding will progress via trust- and value-generation with the aid of data and technology to expand and generate value for a wider net of stakeholders.

Disputes are part and parcel of property.

Anyone who's attended a local zoning or planning commission meeting in anywhere USA is familiar with this notion.

Conflicts are an inherent part of social existence because we are in constant competition for resources. We also are in conflict because we have different goals and different ideas about our place in society, what our rights, duties, and responsibilities to other people are, and what constitutes, right, wrong, fairness, or justice.
We can call conflicts arising out of the evaluation of our own and others' actions, motives, and notices about what is just and fair and what is good or bad behavior, value conflicts or moral conflicts.

Here's a contemporary tale of geography and people who for 7,000 years have tapped the Klamath River in the California Cascades for life and livelihood. Humans who fish and drink the waters of the Klamath compete – albeit hundreds of miles apart from one another – for the same exact resource with people who raise cattle and provide beef to the nation.

Similarly, the values of people who subsist and prosper from the stream of housing – whether they're current residents of homes and communities or they're the ones who develop new homes and communities for those who need shelter – come into conflict. They're up- or they're down-stream of the same river.

Business leaders in housing have reached a turning point, as they work to do their part to "make it easy to build."

"The way things are" holds their vested interest. Anything that isn't as it is and has been time-tested – better or worse – lies in a zone of high-risk, of loss, of failure, of squandered trust.

Axios Future host Bryan Walsh writes:

The future we will live in will largely be a function of balancing the benefits that new technology brings with the risks and downsides it inevitably causes.
Why it matters: The pandemic has demonstrated both the value of accelerated technology and the penalty when it's held back by red tape and regulation — lessons that would be smart to take for a future that demands innovation. ... But every innovation has its dark side, and it will be up to us to manage that minefield.

Walsh notes that classic conditions for innovation – urgency, threat, potential loss of dynamism – are ripe now, a call to action, not as a "nice-to-have" fuzzy thing to do because it's cool, but because it's all about survival and dynamism. At the same time, eyes wide open to the darker side of technology, data, and machine learning's powers factor into the weight of the dilemma at this turning point for housing.

He writes:

It can be easy to see people who are against building more housing or constructing new renewable power projects or expanding genetically modified foods as enemies of progress, but there's a cost to accelerated innovation that goes beyond the risks of misuse.
Human beings often have a vested interest in the way things are, and innovations that might improve us in the aggregate — like denser housing in cities — can still make some worse off at the individual level.
The continual struggle to get tens of millions of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 demonstrates the limits of even the best technofixes if they aren't accompanied by social policy that addresses those fears.

Walsh's conclusions amount to a refreshed appreciation for old wisdom of phrases like "necessity is the mother of invention." In his own words, Walsh's hope stems from a vibrant sense that humans resolve and determine to progress, because they will to and because they have to.  He writes:

Progress is a race we can't stop running, both because many haven't yet had the chance to enter the competition and because we still need to outrun the threats to come."

Technology, data, and machine learning progress – faster, better, more – can play a critical role in helping to resolve chronic disputes. They can, and they have to, for housing's leading organizations to thrive between now and 2030.

Builders achieved giant steps forward to apply data, tech, and machine learning to creating better pathways to match their offerings to consumers' journey and experience. The giant steps ahead are to use exponential technologies to make homebuilding and placemaking's  value stream equally valuable for those up-stream and downstream of the place itself.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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