Crossing the Threshold: A Catalyst for Sustainable Digitalisation

Morphosis and RICS launch a groundbreaking report which is set to kick-start a
conversation on the sustainability of digitalisation in our cities.

Leading sustainability consultant Morphosis, in conjunction with RICS, has launched ‘Crossing the Threshold: A primer for sustainable digitalisation in real estate and cities’ at a breakfast event for built environment leaders in Sydney.

The primer for the real estate sector, businesses and cities is the culmination of two years of research by Morphosis and was launched with representatives from the City of Sydney, The Ethics Centre, Laing O’Rourke, and major property developers and owners, as well as other major industry stakeholders.

Crossing the Threshold has been written with the creators, owners, occupiers and operators of real estate and cities in mind. Its mission is to help ensure that the digitalisation of our cities is responsible, ethical and sustainable.

‘Digitalisation’ refers to the progressive application of technologies - from artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and autonomous vehicles, to blockchain, the internet of things and robotics - across our economy, society and environment.

The primer presents six digitalisation-driven ‘transformations’ that will redefine real estate and cities over the next decade:
1. Optimised performance: transformation of the operation of buildings, cities and markets
2. Reworked labour: transformation of the labour force
3. Exposed business: transformation of the public exposure of organisations
4. Liberated developments: transformation of development and construction
5. Reinvented streets: transformation of urban mobility and form
6. Troubled minds: transformation of the human experience

Simon Carter, author of Crossing the Threshold and Managing Director, Morphosis, said that digitalisation offers the property industry numerous possibilities but remains a double-edged sword.

“To date, the innovators, implementers and users of digital technologies have largely focused on one edge of the sword – the benefits – without adequately considering the risks such technologies present in terms of the environment, society and governance,” he said.

Mr Carter suggests the property industry must boldly address the risks associated with digitalisation to best serve community and business interests in the long term.

“Alongside the exciting and valuable benefits that digitalisation brings us, there are many potentially serious risks that need careful consideration by our businesses, governments and, most importantly, the community. Examples include privacy, job automation, cybersecurity and electronic waste. If we don’t address the risks, we may not get to enjoy the benefits.


“Digitalisation is a mega-trend that sits alongside urbanisation, globalisation, climate change and the others that are reshaping our cities, our society, and ultimately, our species.”


Chris Nichol, FRICS, Managing Director Southeast Asia, Australasia and Japan, RICS, believes the technological transformation currently facing the property industry is akin to the changes faced during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century.

“RICS came into being 150 years ago this year, in response to the unprecedented advances of the Industrial Revolution, when new technology was driving such substantial change in real estate that more stringent checks and balances became essential to protect the public,” said Mr Nichol.

“The technological transformation we are experiencing today is of a similar magnitude, and Crossing the Threshold reminds us that we need to be wise in how we deploy technology and have all stakeholders, engaged in the process of shaping our future with digitalisation.”

RICS’ Future of the Profession program is exploring how digital technologies are transforming the valuation and surveying profession. Mr Nicholl notes that for RICS and its 100,000 plus members around the world, Crossing the Threshold relates both to a major transformation occurring within its profession, as well as the leadership the profession needs to provide in assisting industry, communities and cities successfully transform with digitalisation.

Mr Nicholl said, Crossing the Threshold helps the profession provide leadership in an area fundamental to not only the industry’s own future success and prosperity, but also that of cities right around the world.


“It reminds us to put ethics at the heart of our decision making in so doing, we serve the interests of today’s society and those of future generations in equal measure,” said Mr Nicholl.


Mr Carter added that the primer notes humankind is currently crossing a threshold where digital technology will irreversibly change society, the economy, and the environment.

“As such, this primer has been designed to start a conversation – calling upon the property industry to set the standard for sustainable digitalisation, building on its leading work in sustainability,” said Mr Carter.

Crossing the Threshold has been endorsed by leading built environment peak bodies including the Property Council of Australia (PCA), the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA).

To download a copy of Crossing the Threshold, visit or


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