NAC Members Talk Future Trends


Yogi Berra once famously quipped, "The future ain’t what it used to be." That message certainly rang true at BOMA International’s National Advisory Council (NAC) meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, this past October, where a record crowd of senior executives discussed trends that will change the commercial real estate business as we know it today. In a lively program that featured real estate researcher and advisor Chris Lee, technology guru Jim Young and others, the message was clear: Big changes are coming. In fact, they’re already here.

Chris Lee, president of CEL & Associates, who regularly publishes trends and predictions for commercial real estate, shared headlines he says we are likely to see in the not-too-distant future that capture the industry’s changing landscape. These include: "40 Percent of Jobs by 2030 Can Be Automated, New Report Reveals"; "Google Becomes the #1 Source for Real Estate Data"; and "Amazon Launches First Flying Warehouse." Lee says we are facing a paradigm shift in office space usage; only 10 of the top 50 corporations with the most job openings require office space, and coworking or shared workspace now comprises 27 million square feet of office space. In the near term, he predicts the current real estate cycle will peak by 2019. Lee also shared 40 transformative items that will affect our industry, from disruptive technologies to robotics to artificial intelligence to unprecedented debt.


In the near future, 40 transformative items will affect our industry, among them: disruptive technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence and unprecedented debt.


Realcomm Founder Jim Young noted that more than 2,500 companies are selling technology today, and encouraged NAC members to dedicate staff and time to figure out which ones make sense for them. He predicts that 70 percent of commercial real estate will be dysfunctional in 10 years without industry intervention. Autonomous cars, wearable technology, robots, drones, telemedicine and 3-D printing are already here or coming soon; all will have implications for commercial real estate, too. According to Young, the game of the future will be data analytics and, with that, challenges to our privacy.


In the future, it is predicted there will be less owned and more shared commercial space, and the workplace will be something special where people choose to be. Yet, 50 million additional buildings will be needed by 2050, perhaps at sea or even in space.


Building on these themes, Jodi Williams and Jeanne Wood with the Washington, D.C.-based design firm CallisonRTKL, led a dynamic discussion about the workforce and workplace of the future. They believe that, due to rapid changes in technology, 65 percent of today’s grade-school children will be working in jobs that have not yet been invented. Within 20 to 50 years, robots will change the way we do everything; buildings will become machines; workers will primarily be freelancers and consultants; and everyone will be chipped. We will see less owned and more shared commercial space, and the workplace will be something special where people choose to be. Yet, 50 million additional buildings will be needed by 2050, perhaps at sea or even in space. Private transit will not exist, and teleportation may be a reality by 2070. Beam me up, Scotty!

The group also heard from economist Mark Dotzour, PhD, who reported trends shaping our economy as we approach the end of the recovery period, including a slowing in real estate sales and investments and 6.2 million job openings in the United States that cannot be filled due to lack of skills and the right education. Innovative Industrial Properties CFO Catherine Hastings shared her company’s business strategy for—and many challenges of—owning properties dedicated to the production of medical marijuana. A panel led by Corporate Sustainability Solutions’ Brenna Walraven, BOMA Fellow, CPM, RPA, examined challenges to implementing sustainability in industrial properties, plus several presentations by NAC members on renovation projects rounded out the program.

Berra also once said, "You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there." NAC members came away from this meeting not only with a better understanding of where the industry is heading, but how they can prepare for it—and prosper—in a challenging and exciting future.

The National Advisory Council meets next in Chicago this May 2-4. For more information on BOMA’s NAC, visit or contact BOMA International Senior Vice President Patricia Areno at