UrbanLab: Propelling China's PropTech Innovation for A Sustainable Future

Real Estate Author: Yiru Qian, Xinyu Chen May 09, 2023 03:33 PM (GMT+8)

The vision of hitting the carbon peak and realizing carbon neutralization is further emphasizing the need to digitize in PropTech to unlock new business opportunities.

Green construction

Buildings accounted for over 50% of China's total carbon emissions in 2020, and decarbonizing real estate will be crucial to meeting China's "Dual Carbon" goal. Under this context, improving building efficiency, promoting the low-carbon transformation of the construction industry, and accelerating the synergistic development of intelligent construction industrialization has become the industry's primary focus. The building sector must continue to grow to meet people's needs for safe and innovative housing and workplaces while also aligning with a net-zero future, which makes investing in PropTech essential to achieving carbon neutrality. 

UrbanLab, the very first real estate alliance on technology and innovation in China, has committed to explore and cultivate technology startups for the industry and unleash the technology potential of the industry since initiated in 2019. 

In 2023, UrbanLab has highlighted three core themes with high potential: Integrated Energy Service, Green Building Materials and Intelligent Human Assistance. In recognition of their contributions to these three themes, 10 companies have been invited to join UrbanLab's PropTech ecosystem. 

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Integrated Energy Service

With the increasing demand for clean energy, the integrated energy service that is more comprehensive, efficient, interconnected, and user-friendly has emerged. In commercial real estate, integrated energy service will help real estate enterprises obtain clean energy more flexibly, improve building energy utilization efficiency and reduce operation and management costs. It is viewed as an indispensable new force of the industry to achieve low-carbon and sustainable development. 

Green Building Materials

Energy-saving and eco-friendly building materials have become the focus of national R&D and promotion. An increasing number of tech companies are dedicating to the field of green building materials. These technologies and products are not only limited to the material production stage but are integrated throughout the entire lifecycle of the building. Especially in conjunction with prefabricated construction, 3D printing, and advancements in insulation and recycling capabilities, significant progress and breakthroughs have been achieved.

Intelligent Human Assistance

The imbalance in supply and demand of human resources in China's construction industry not only leads to direct negative impacts like difficulty in hiring and rising labor costs, but also hinders the industry’s digitalization. To address these challenges, the industry is turning to digital intelligence technologies, such as BIM platforms, construction robots, and AI, to assist in labor-intensive and labor-hazardous tasks. Such kinds of manpower assistance technology will free up labor, improve operational efficiency, create a safe and health work environment, and integrate the ESG concept into the creation of smart cities. 

UrbanLab is embracing a sustainable PropTech ecosystem in an innovative way

Open Innovation has emerged as a powerful tool for driving sustainable development in the real estate sector, leveraging the industry knowledge and networks of established real estate firms to support young startups in scaling up and bolstering their R&D capabilities. Ample resources and opportunities will be offered to pilot their technologies, enabling them to thrive and succeed. 

UrbanLab is spearheading this trend, demonstrating how real estate and construction industry players are talking bold steps to invest in early-stage PropTech startups through CVC, PoC and beyond, creating a high collaborative and inclusive PropTech ecosystem together. 

On March 22, 2023, UrbanLab hosted the UrbanLab PropTech Forum in Shanghai attended by over 300 ecosystem members. Following the event, the summary report Tech-Enabled Sustainable Development in Real Estate in China was released. This report provided the exclusive insights on technology trends, showcased 10 startups on the above-mentioned themes, highlighted case studies of collaboration, and more. 

Bessie Lee, Chief Executive Officer of JLL Greater China, commented "I am delighted to see JLL working closely with Swire Properties, Shui On Group, Goodman Group and Saint-Gobain Group on UrbanLab this year. Together, we hope to infuse more innovative ideas and accelerate the commercialization journey. We're confident that China will take the opportunities to show the world that technologies embedded in the traditional real estate industry can make a big difference. This is also the JLL's ambition on PropTech as well as UrbanLab."

Looking ahead, UrbanLab will further embrace new technologies and build an open, sustainable innovation ecosystem. We believe that UrbanLab is expected to serve as a significant catalyst for a thriving, dynamic, and engaging PropTech ecosystem. And this alliance is likely to empower stakeholders in the industry and drive the entire industry towards a green and promising future.