'Passion, Intelligence, Persistence, And The Ability To Reflect And Adapt. These Are Universal Truths For Any Industry'
Yohance Harper has a background in architecture and investment management. He is an associate partner at Quadrant Estates, where he is helping to deliver 500K SF of offices in London. Harper is the vice chair of the ULI’s Young Leaders Committee, alongside academic roles at UCL, Goldsmiths and UCEM.
Bisnow: Do you believe that we are in a unique period of transformation for the built environment, or has there always been a steady state of change?
Harper: The change itself is unique, as it always is, but the pace isn’t. Looking back to the late 1800s onwards into the 20th century, a typical person would have experienced, for the first time, the ability to illuminate a room with the flick of a switch, ride a train underground, store perishable food indoors for extended periods of time, and see a church replaced by a skyscraper as the tallest building (the Empire State Building).
One of these alone would have fundamentally changed the experience of the built environment, so I can only imagine how they would have felt combined. More recently, transformation in the built environment has been led by technology, and whilst the impact is undeniable, a long-run view puts it in perspective.
Rather than diminish recent accomplishments, this perspective places us at the start of potentially much greater change. In the same way the invention of the steam engine was a tool that sparked a circa 200-year period of innovation, I believe we have the potential to use recent innovations to change the way we live. The real question is what are the present — and likely future — changes, and what opportunities do they present?
Bisnow: What skills will be essential to succeed in the real estate industry in the future?
Harper: Passion, intelligence, persistence, and the ability to reflect and adapt. These are universal truths for any industry, as real estate covers such a broad spectrum. In terms of development, I was once told that a good developer should be just as comfortable in wingtips as they are in work boots. Whilst the fashion trends of bankers and investors may have changed, it remains true that a developer needs the skills to comfortably move between the physical, financial and statutory considerations of the built environment. It’s the range of skill required to reflect the dynamism of the space.
Bisnow: Will new roles exist in real estate in 2035 that don't exist now; and conversely will any current roles disappear by then?
Harper: The answer to both questions has always been, and will likely always be, yes. In the context of real estate, other industries are highlighting how agility can change perspectives and achieve more with less input. The challenge will be how we equip the next generation with the right skill sets and how we ensure those roles are accessible.
Bisnow: How does technology support your current role, and what additional tech do you envisage for the future?
Harper: Technology is integral to most aspects of my role, from how the space is designed, engineered, visualised, actualised, experienced and ultimately sold. In the near future, tech will close the gap between the building and the occupier, enabling a more seamless relationship where the building is able to respond to the personal preferences of the occupier, and in turn, the occupiers understand their impact on the space. Importantly, future tech will need to help us mitigate our impact on the environment.