2020 was a disruptive year in many ways, and it’s fair to suggest the impact of COVID-19 has affected everyone in the housebuilding sector, regardless of size. However, there are a few silver linings to take away from the experience, from a greater focus on sustainable construction to a digital revolution, transforming the way developers work for the better.
Although we’ve started 2021 with another lockdown, UK housebuilding, in line with the wider sector continues to operate. Yes, current circumstances are challenging but there are plenty of opportunities for developers to seize, from improving their business to exploring new markets.
So, as the new year gets underway in earnest, we ask a number of industry players what they predict the next twelve months will hold for the sector.
“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 to consider conduction heating, 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.” – Chris Stanley, Housing Manager, Modern Masonry
“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.
“I also expect we’ll 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.” – PJ Farr, Managing Director, UK Connect Ltd.
“The back garden will become an extension of the living room. Not only will we see homeowners and landlords undertake renovation work to ‘evergreen’ these outdoor spaces, we’ll also see architects and developers give more careful consideration on how to enhance these areas. This will add value for the resident and allow the vendor to upsell on new features such as smart tech, outdoor heating systems and quality furniture, packaged up as part of the sale or rental package.”
“Landscaped communal areas will no doubt be reappraised in both new builds and existing properties. Coronavirus will prompt layout changes to limit close proximity and, no doubt, instigate a rise in more comfortably furnished, sheltered and sustainably heated areas where small groups can gather outdoors in a low-risk setting.” – Matthew Fagg, Brand Manager, Barlow Tyrie
“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.” – Charlie Ayers, Managing Director, SureCav
“Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), is set to dominate residential construction in 2021, with huge advances being made over the last few years. Now the focus is beginning to shift towards commercial structures, particularly as COVID-19 has fostered a sea change, with more and more people moving to a work-from-home and flexible office space model.”
“Companies such as Modulr Space Ltd are starting to offer imaginative and attractive at-home office environments which can be produced volumetrically, on any scale. This can accommodate for the needs of a self-employed creative to a massive conglomerate. Quality-controlled, sustainable and flexible, modular has great potential to provide the solution for a new world of work.” – Rachel Davis, Director, Perega
As you can see, it’s a mixed bag, but one thing’s for certain, we are seeing UK housebuilding undergoing a revolution, including a more concerted effort to embrace new technology, a more earnest drive toward sustainability and a greater appreciation of the benefits offered by apprenticeships.
If nothing else, 2020 has provided a catalyst for the industry to think in a smarter, more thorough and agile way. The big test will be to see whether the lessons and knowledge accrued during these anomalous times will be harnessed and used to improve practices and processes across the board. We guess only time will tell!