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Digital transformation for the built environment

Jun 23, 2022

From our Thought Leader Contributor EY

Guest post by Jade Dauser, Paula Spiese, Leanna Li, Eri Kato

What are the common issues and challenges in CRE technology? Does your organization have technology implementation fatigue? What does your PropTech landscape look like now, and what can be done for tomorrow?

A familiar scenario

You probably know that you need to make some changes within your corporate real estate (CRE) portfolio, but don’t have the proper tools or analytics in-place to support specific key decision-making. Does that scenario sound familiar? Maybe you have an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for procurement, a space management tool for occupancy planning and a lease accounting platform to manage general reporting needs. You probably also have a few providers and tools for reporting some necessary data on portfolio and facilities maintenance. You may even have some internet of things (IoT) sensors installed in the building, feeding dashboards to help monitor certain indicators of the physical environment.

Developing the right, tailored strategy for your portfolio can take a lot of investment in different tools and applications, and a lot of effort in learning, training and managing these systems — especially when they are not connected to each other and might produce misaligned data and reports. Often, there are still challenges left unsolved, or newly developing situations that require data or analytics that are not readily available or difficult to reconcile with large amounts of misaligned information. It’s easy to feel lost among all the data gathered from the point solutions in your existing PropTech landscape when there is no contextualized reporting methodology.

According to an EY commercial real estate industry survey,[1] 92% of respondents consider data analytics[2] as the most important vertical for technology to address, but only a third have adopted or developed a tool to date. And while tech adoption is generally acknowledged as an important undertaking that requires investment, it remains a challenge, with more than half of those surveyed reporting integration of the new with the old as a significant barrier. 

The complexity of real estate infrastructure and buildings has undoubtedly increased in today’s world – the efficiency and effectiveness of our solutions must increase as well.

Transformation is needed more than ever

Is digital transformation for real estate the answer? We’ve reached a turning point in how we are thinking about our built environments and must solve for more than COVID-19 going forward. We must create better, more resilient, future-proofed workplaces that also improve performance and reporting quality for burgeoning environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements.

In the 2022 EY Work Reimagined Survey,[3] 17% of employees reported that better overall well-being programs play a vital role in their decisions to change jobs. In addition, both optimistic and pessimistic employers overwhelmingly agree (94% and 83% respectively) [4] that they need to make workplace changes for ongoing safety and well-being.

On the environmental impact side, according to a recent EY-Parthenon analysis and UN Environment Programme report,[5] 37% of global emissions came from building construction and operations in 2020, and up to 80% of unused construction materials and demolition waste are discarded.

From an ESG reporting perspective, almost one-third of global companies score below 5% for overall quality of their climate-related risk disclosures,[6] while more than two-thirds of CFOs said the growing focus on ESG concerns will have a major impact on the CFO role.[7]

How can technology effectively support improvements to workplace well-being, sustainability, ESG reporting? Organizations need an integrated approach to help reduce risks and uncertainties while improving monitoring, analytics and response capabilities for the built environment. Digital transformation that spans the entire CRE asset lifecycle is needed more than ever. The right CRE technology program can integrate existing real estate and facilities systems with aggregated data from multiple sources, combine data and operations from smart building tools, and process disparate data with advanced analytics and digital modeling to provide customized solutions for an organization’s most challenging circumstances.  

Solutions that remove data silos and reduce risk

For an integrated CRE technology solution to be successful, it must accommodate many uncertainties around possible actions and risks. For example, how siloed data generated from stand-alone systems is leveraged into the new integrated tech landscape can vary from system to system — sometimes, difficult decisions around rationalizing or sunsetting disparate, legacy systems must be considered.  

Technology transformation is a program level undertaking that may consist of many (maybe dozens or even hundreds) of individual smaller projects. Successful reconciliation of new and existing CRE systems with the organization’s objectives and goals requires a plan that resolves the complexities of integration, implementation, successful user adoption, and of course, how to prioritize all of these projects. The transformation roadmap must align with expected benefits and ROI, available resources, cultural barriers, business impacts, and readiness for implementation.

For example, complex strategic initiatives, such as driving decarbonization or healthy building retrofits, typically require both immediate actions and an approach for long-term improvement. These solutions can also guide facility operators with real-time and trending building performance metrics, data for actionable decision support and, at the same time, provide key information to help meet accurate and auditable ESG reporting needs.

Evolving hybrid work challenges can also be resolved by enhancing the monitoring, analytics and response capabilities of digital workplace and smart building solutions. These systems also provide crucial insights into portfolio optimization opportunities. By centrally aggregating and harmonizing the data, these solutions enable the workplace to respond quickly to employee needs, serve as another layer of protection against safety risks, and help the workplace to support a thriving workforce. Example use cases include understanding actual usage vs reservations (that is, where do people actually congregate, work, and how long they stay, vs what they simply enter into a reservation system); what amenities they take advantage of; digital redirect to optimize energy usage and comfort in high-traffic and low-use spaces; input when considering whether or not a retrofit will provide enough value to undertake; and decision-making to optimize space overall based on actual usage trends.


Changes are needed to improve today’s CRE technology landscape to help prepare for and solve some of the most pressing challenges in our built environments. Integrated CRE IT platform solutions can align the resources and systems that exist today, and process data from different sources using appropriate advanced technologies and tools to drive solutions for CRE organizations and leaders. These changes can and should be made following a prioritized roadmap that allows for early and incremental successes along the path towards an advanced and integrated CRE technology ecosystem.

The views reflected in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.

[1] “How commercial real estate firms use technology to secure a future”,, 2 Oct 2020.

[2] Note: Data analytics is defined as software and other technology utilizing data and AI to provide business insights that improve real estate decision-making.

[3] EY 2022 Work Reimagined Survey,

[4] Note: “Pessimistic employers” believe the pandemic negatively impacted culture and productivity. “Optimistic employers” believe it positively impacted culture and productivity. For Real Estate questions, employers selected the response if they were considering or had already executed the change.

[5] “How construction companies can combine profitable growth with net zero”,, 28 March 2022.

[6] “How real estate and construction are improving climate disclosures”,, 1 June 2020.

[7] “How the CFO can balance competing demands and drive future growth”,, 3 November 2020.

Sonali Tare