Similar to other domains worldwide, real estate and construction have been experiencing the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis. However, with the evolution of digital technology, we can see a silver lining ahead. Within a few years, these domains are poised to witness changes that might otherwise have taken decades.

At present, there are multiple hits on the construction industry, such as paucity of labour, shortage of materials, liquidity issues, and the stalling of projects. As lockdown deadlines got extended, the migrant workers were told to stay wherever they worked. Across India, thousands of marching migrants walked to their hometowns from various regions. The employers, on the other hand, dreaded the inevitable labour shortages.

With the country under Unlock 2.0, the damage through reverse migration has already been done. However, as real estate development is back on track, numerous changes have been introduced, majorly for the betterment of the industry in the long run. While construction costs may rise due to the shortage of labour and raw materials, project timelines will be extended in the near or mid-term.

Nonetheless, there are ways whereby construction and infrastructure players can overcome the hurdles, reduce timelines and lower costs while addressing labour and raw material shortage. The one-word answer to this is technology. While technology earlier acted as a disruptor, it is serving as a saviour amid the present crisis. It can help the developers avail several benefits, plan efficiently, and enhance the overall customer experience. Also, these benefits will be available to other verticals, including hospitality and retail as well.

For example, smart home technology can immensely improve the construction quality and ensure shorter timelines in developing infrastructure. While it took several years to construct a building earlier, the same is not the case now. Thanks to prefabricated units, it is possible to construct structures within weeks or even days. What is more, GPS positioning technology makes sure that the towers are extremely accurate. All of this can be achieved with minimal labour. The economies of scale save on allied costs too. Technology-driven construction–be it residential, commercial or industrial can transform the experience of both buyers and developers.

Tech advancements are currently driving the development of smart products and services in real estate. These developments are in sync with the Centre’s 100 Smart Cities Mission, which is underway throughout India. As urbanisation shifts from Tier 1 to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, it makes sense to deploy smart technologies in meeting these objectives.

The biggest benefit of Smart Cities is that they improve the safety, security, sustainability, efficiency and liveability index of urban zones by optimising the use of resources, including land, power and water. Although smart systems can be used either organically (while building cities and structures) or inorganically (refurbishing existing buildings), it makes sense to opt for the former, wherever possible.

Saving a Precious Resource

Cities built on smart technologies make the business ecosystem more transparent and competitive. The focus on sustainability and efficient use of resources save around 30 percent of power, water and other resources.

Water supply has become a concern of utmost importance ever since 2018 when a report by NITI Aayog raised red flags that about 21 Indian cities might face Day Zero this year. To apprise, Day Zero is a situation where taps can run completely dry. Chennai has already faced Day Zero. Smart water systems can help avert such a crisis by conserving water via the 4Rs of reducing, reusing, recycling and replenishing water and its reservoirs.

In the first three Rs, smart water systems can play a major role. For instance, the majority of water is wasted in washrooms, whether residential, commercial or institutional. Today, a broad range of smart urinals and toilets are available to minimise water wastage.

In reusing and recycling water, dual plumbing systems are ideal for segregating greywater, which is used for landscaping and flushing toilets.

Given the new normal norms of COVID-19 that necessitate washing of hands repeatedly throughout the day, water resources are under tremendous pressure. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh’s arid Bundelkhand region, the average water consumption in urban and semi-urban zones has more than doubled. Therefore, smart systems can act as an excellent resource-saving option. The coronavirus outbreak is fast-forwarding the use of smart technologies, which can speed up India’s real estate and infrastructure development on an unprecedented scale.