Embracing the future

Amy Till, NLA programme director, gives a sneak preview of the London Real Estate Forum show happening later this year.

Inequality. Climate change. Mass urbanisation. Digitalisation. These macro trends have been driving change and political agendas for decades. As the world grapples with COVID-19 and begins to map a way out of the crisis, there is renewed energy to tackle these issues head on.

How can we harness this energy? It is more important than ever that we look to work collectively: city mayors with the private sector; developers with residents; investors with academia; and London with our UK city neighbours. 

This September, NLA hosts the London Real Estate Forum at our new venue, the Barbican Centre, bringing together leaders from government, investment communities and the built environment professions. Alongside inspiring voices from outside the industry, we’ll discuss the future of our cities and the role of real estate in addressing key global themes. Our hybrid physical/virtual programme will come to life through keynote presentations, panel discussions, invited roundtables, city models, curated exhibitions, and networking receptions. And this year we are thrilled to be joined by other UK city regions in Manchester, West Midlands, Liverpool, and Scotland. All have representation at both our Investment Summit and the forum itself, enabling us to identify common challenges and share approaches and ideas. 

So, to our 2021 theme — Future Fundamentals. We have identified a set of priorities that we believe should be at the heart of decision-making on the future of our urban places.

These ‘future fundamentals’ are both our platform for debate and inform our year-round digital insight programme, which explores a different theme each month in the lead up to September’s conference. 

Future fundamentals explored so far in our monthly insights include:

  • Net zero — from retrofit and re-use to material passports and the ‘internet of things’
  • Knowledge-based — from the future of innovation clusters to the role of new universities in community life, and
  • Healthy — from responsive buildings that promote wellbeing to the new initiatives tackling the critical issue of air quality.
  • Polycentric — A city of well-connected mixed-use neighbourhoods linked to a strong centre.
  • Smart — A city that effectively harnesses technology and big data to improve quality of life.

Encouragingly, the environmental and social impact of city development and investment have shot up the agenda. Environmental, Social, and Governance is no longer a tick-box exercise: it now sits at the heart of corporate purpose and is becoming a key framework for investment decisions. It will form an important part of the discussion at the London Real Estate Forum, as we unpick what this means for future city plans, development strategies, and ultimately the new places we create. 

Cities are clearly facing major challenges, both economic and social. But we believe this is an exciting moment to reboot. To quote Tony Travers, director of the LSE, in a session at the Investment Summit: ‘Social distancing is the antithesis of city life.’ So, as soon as we are able, let’s come together. Because together we shape better cities.