New research by EY, in conjunction with the Green Building Council of Australia and Property Council of Australia, hopes to shake the property industry from its slumber on the inevitable disruption that will transform the sector.

EY research in Will the Australian property sector seize the upside of disruption? suggests that the property industry could be underestimating the impact of disruptive forces beginning to emerge.

“The difference between those businesses that thrive in the new economy, and those that risk irrelevance and unprofitability, may hinge on one deciding factor: their ability to proactively seize the opportunities unearthed in the disruptive power of these megatrends – or at the very least quickly react to such disruptions,” the report said.

A survey conducted by EY gathered responses of more than 550 industry executives and senior managers, as well as in-depth interviews with 15 real estate chief executives.

A number of potential disrupters were uncovered, including sustainable cities, the move to carbon zero, big data, the sharing economy, virtual reality, cyber threats, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, robotics and even eco-terrorism.

However, it found that for a number of potential disrupters – including autonomous vehicles, robotics and big data – there was not enough weight being placed on the significance of disruption that could occur in the industry.

For example, it said that while the property industry saw the importance of big data, EY’s view was that it was “only at the tip of the iceberg” regarding how that could be leveraged to drive commercial and customer insights and impact revenue.

On robotics, the industry had low preparation and only saw as a low-to-moderate risk, but EY said it would have a high impact “from back office impacts through robotic process automation, to the impact of cognitive and artificial intelligence in transforming the roles humans play”.

Autonomous vehicles, also seen by the industry as a low impact risk, would have a “vast impact” on what people would require from the built environment, and would make inner-city parking “obsolete”, EY said.

“We wonder whether the impact of this technology is properly recognised?”

Businesses that caught onto the trends early could reap immense benefits, the report found, including through the use of technological innovations like blockchain, additive manufacturing, drones, 3D laser mapping, machine learning, Internet of Things sensors, offsite production and robotics.

PCA chief executive Ken Morrison welcomed the report and encouraged the industry to consider its findings.

“Few imagined how Amazon, Uber, Apple, Google, AirBnB and Tesla would transform so many established industries,” Mr Morrison said.

“As consumers, this transformation is making our lives easier, but for businesses who don’t prepare for change, it can be traumatic.”