We’ve witnessed a shift in attitudes and perceptions over the last six months when it comes to housebuilding and living standards, with contractors and builders embracing sustainability, MMC, and digital solutions with greater enthusiasm than ever. Will these trends continue into 2021?
2021 is now well and truly underway and, despite the recent announcement of a third lockdown, there are a few reasons to be optimistic.
Building on the lessons learned during the disruption and uncertainty provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing Brexit negotiations, the housebuilding sector finds itself in a relatively stable position.
Battle-hardened developers are now ready to face the challenges the coming year presents and seize the opportunities to build back better.
As the sector continues to evolve at pace, we ask a range of companies working in and around UK housebuilding what they predict the year will hold.
The modular model
“Modular construction is set to play a bigger role in the coming years,” says Richard Waterhouse, chief strategy officer at construction technology platform NBS.
“We need to start seeing construction as more of an assembly process if the government is to meet the growing demand for new homes.
“One way to think about it is like Lego for the real-world, you have lots of standard bricks but they can be put together in so many ways to create something unique.
“At the heart of it are uniform components that will allow us to build much more quickly.”
Charlie Ayers, managing director of SureCav Ltd, which provides a sustainable backing system for masonry construction, says: “Construction and housebuilding has a poor legacy when it comes to dealing with waste plastic and more effort/investment needs to be made into reusing and repurposing this material.
“Landfill’s no longer an option and, where we can, we need to find low-impact, practical solutions for what we can recycle.
“We’ll see more sustainable systems, fixtures, fittings and components which make use of recyclable plastic and its many advantageous properties coming online.
“However, it all starts with the specifier. They must step up in earnest and make a better business case for green construction, so far we’ve had a lot of talk, now we need action, especially if we have any hope of meeting our 2050 net-zero targets.”
Up to speed
PJ Farr, managing director of UK Connect Ltd, which provides communications services to the construction industry, says: “Smart technology is going to become even more influential on building design and prolific in construction. We’re already seeing an increase in the number of smart city projects coming online, harnessing evolving wireless solutions.
“The advent of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 is further strengthening IOT networks and delivering a holistically connected environment which will improve peoples’ daily lives, professionally and personally.
“Improved broadband and wireless will deliver better connectivity, making sites more efficient and easier to operate through faster data sharing, fewer outages, and lower lag times”
“I expect we’ll also see more advanced, fully-integrated site management software launching to offer a fully collaborative construction journey in real time.
“Equally, improved broadband and wireless will deliver better connectivity, making sites more efficient and easier to operate through faster data sharing, fewer outages, and lower lag times.”
Chris Stanley, housing manager at Modern Masonry, which provides guidance on masonry solutions, says: “There’s been plenty of discussion around how we mitigate climate change through building design and products, but I believe 2021 will see a greater focus on how we adapt to it.
“Material choices will play an important role as we look to passive options, moving away from mechanical HVAC to better manage warmer summers and cooler, damper winters.
“Further, utilising thermal mass to also heat buildings will not only deliver a comfortable, more energy efficient, solution, it will significantly reduce CO2 emissions and ensure lower utility bills for owners, occupants and residents alike.
“Another emerging option is considering how we can safely heat the fabric of the building itself through conduction, opposed to convection, systems.
“Convection heating can be inefficient, costly and environmentally unfriendly, as well as possibly leading to poorer air quality.
“Conduction heating is an emerging technology which can harness the potential of a buildings mass to deliver a minimal impact, low-cost heating solution with almost zero emissions.”
The new standard
Rachel Davis, director of civil and structural engineering consultancy Perega, says: “Changes to Part F of Building Standards are going to have a significant impact on the way buildings are designed, as well as the components specified for them.
“While we often think of air quality in terms of controlled systems and mechanical engineering, the design of a building’s structure can also promote better airflow to promote passive ventilation.
“Primarily, we will start to see structures specifically planned to harness and exploit the natural elements to promote airflow.
“The days of cramped, confined rooms in commercial offices, full of stagnant, recycled air are set to become a thing of the past”
“This can be achieved in a number of ways, from specifying facades which capture a prevailing wind to creating high-ceiled, open plan interiors and creating architectural features throughout to direct airflow.
“One thing’s for certain, the days of cramped, confined rooms in commercial offices, full of stagnant, recycled air are set to become a thing of the past.”
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