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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blog intro and 3D printing...

Vancouver, British Columbia, and its surrounding metropolis, is known worldwide for its residential real estate. The word was first spread by visitors to Expo ’86 and, more recently, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The city is repeatedly at the top of ‘the most liveable cities’ in the world rankings (#1 two years in a row!) and demand is driven by strong immigration, mostly from Asia.

But what about commercial real estate? Does the city’s ‘international’ reputation flow through to the four segments that make up commercial real estate (Investment, Office, Industrial, and Retail) and if so in what way does it benefit or harm each sector? How does the city’s picturesque location on the Pacific make it strategic economic property for the country as a whole and does the rugged terrain pose challenges to industry?

These are some of the topics I hope to cover as I make my maiden voyage into the Blogosphere. However, I must warn everyone that I worked hardest at my second year literature course in university, but got the lowest grades, so please don’t expect any awe inspiring prose. You can expect a few tangential rants and hopefully some entertaining and informative media posts, if our corporate legal counsel will allow it.

I also take a keen interest in international and technological developments and how they may affect commercial real estate locally as well as globally. For example, The Economist recently ran a cover story titled “Print me a Stradivarius – The manufacturing technology that will change the world.” The article discusses the rapid advancement and adoption of 3D printing technology, a process by which compounds are layered (as small as 0.02 – 0.03 mm) repeatedly until the desired object is created. The final product can have moving parts (a Grandfather clock was recently printed at MIT) and can be printed in a variety of materials including nylon, titanium, and plastics.

The technology could have a profound effect on real estate in two ways. Firstly, it could turn out to be a disruptive technology for manufacturing as the internet has been for the music recording industry. For example, the technology would make it possible to produce huge volumes of customized parts, which would reduce the importance of economies of scale. This is an advantage manufacturers in Asia have enjoyed over America and Europe for some time. The technology could allow for a partial shift of manufacturing back to the West which would increase demand for real estate well-situated for manufacturing on these continents.

Secondly, if parts can be manufactured on demand by a 3D printer based on a design that can be transmitted anywhere in the world via the Internet, then why would you ever need to ship anything via courier? This is probably why 3D printing made it onto the itinerary of a DHL conference organized in 2010 and could affect the logistics business and its related real estate footprint worldwide.

A note to my colleagues in Winnipeg: a manufacturer named Kor Ecologic based in Winnipeg is working to build an electric car using a body printed out of plastic. It may be worth call to see if they require any additional space…

The postings on this site are those of the bloggers and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Avison Young.