It is almost impossible to imagine our world without digital technology. Over a series of decades, its effects have been truly transformative, accelerating the cycle in which we form, transmit, receive, and act upon ideas. Growing digital literacy and personalisation tools have added depth and agency to our digital existence, allowing us to tailor our online experience so that we only encounter the information most relevant and valuable to us.
Despite this state of permanent revolution, we must remember that our generation is not unique. In its time, the advent of print technology had a similarly disruptive yet empowering effect. Print’s economic, faithful, speedy, and mass replication of knowledge allowed more people than ever before to read, publish, and, crucially, think new thoughts. This made print a vehicle for the scientific methods of collaboration and enquiry that grant our society so many of its modern comforts and solutions.
In the same way, today’s digital technology, with its emphasis on sharing and connectivity, is delivering lifestyle and productivity gains that are the logical continuation of the information revolution that print began. Our digital present is print’s 21st century legacy, and while the tools we use today may be different, our purpose remains the same: to apply our expertise and methods to the public advantage.
In the built and natural environments, we are uniquely placed to drive forward technological adoption in the public interest. This applies to professionals and to RICS itself, and I have been inspired recently by how we have all adapted and evolved using digital means to innovate, operate more sustainably, and equip ourselves to deliver positive impact according to society’s changing needs.
Our profession’s resilient response to COVID-19 is a case in point. So too is the agility that you have all shown since lockdowns started. Candidates, assessors, professionals and RICS staff have delivered astonishing achievements in recent months: a 45 per cent increase in membership of RICS’ World Built Environment Forum; over 1,300 APC assessments conducted online; and over 30,000 online CPD and insight session registrations, with more than 50 per cent engaging with these latter services for the first time.
You all have my utmost admiration and thanks for the commitment you have shown through these endeavours to learning, networking, and helping each other so that we can continue to support communities around the world in these challenging times. A reminder that you can find links to RICS’ most recent guidance, support and resources related to COVID-19 here.
Another standout example is the digital transformation of RICS’ publication Modus and its four Journals – Built Environment, Construction, Land, and Property. I have always found their insight and analysis hugely informative and enriching for my knowledge of our sector – and from July, professionals will be able to experience this great content in an immersive new digital home on the RICS website.
As well as benefitting from improved navigation and look and feel, readers will be able to expand their understanding through brand new video and graphic content that will bring stats and trends to life. In addition, the shortened publication cycle that is possible without physical print processes will also allow contributors to deliver their industry-leading analysis faster, so that readers can stay more up-to-date on the latest innovation and thinking. A search function will also allow easy navigation of an archive of previously published articles.
As someone who is as passionate about the natural environment as I am the built environment, it is also really pleasing that delivering this improved experience will allow RICS to save 55 million pages per year from being printed – a major contribution to a more sustainable future. There will be refinements to functionality in the months following launch, and readers can find more details of what to expect – including previews and answers to commonly asked questions – here.
This improved experience will allow RICS to save 55 million pages per year from being printed – a major contribution to a more sustainable future.
For centuries, our profession has proved its value to society through our appetite for change. In a world as technologically-driven as ours, nowhere is the value of our profession more vindicated than when we embrace change and apply technology to the public advantage through our work.
I know all too well how much change we have experienced over the last few months. As the new platform replaces print editions and the old online formats, it may feel that we are entering a brave new world. I understand that feeling, and in these situations, I return to the realisation that change – of the kind that delivers real benefit to those we serve – will always feel unsettling at first.
But fresh thinking, delivered sustainably, at scale and pace, and with real choice about how we access it is surely the right model for us to adopt today as professionals who want to face the future with confidence. This is a truly significant step, one that I know will keep us all closer to development in our sector, and that will better equip us to meet the needs of society and our clients in the years to come.
I hope you enjoy the new Modus and Journals experience, and I look forward to the exciting digital journey on which we are all now travelling.
Timothy Neal FRICS
Previously the President and CEO of CallisonRTKL, Arcadis’ global architecture and design practice, the Global Director of Buildings at Arcadis, and the head of UK and European Regions at EC Harris before that, Tim is an internationally recognised leader with more than three decades of experience in the buildings market, large-firm operations and talent management.
Tim has been a member of the RICS Global Regulatory Board for the previous four years and is also the Chair of the International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition. He is a Board Trustee, and Secretary of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.