Sector - Commercial

A Brave New World in Construction

2020 has been a year full of surprises, with the most obvious being COVID-19. However, the UK construction industry has risen to the barriers presented and has, if not thrived, remained stable and resilient. If nothing, the sector finds itself in a strong and robust state, battle-hardened and ready to face the fresh set of challenges and opportunities 2021 has to offer.

Whilst coronavirus remains an ever present issue, other subjects look set to dominate the agenda, ranging from new building methods and technological revolution, through to those heel-biting Net-Zero 2050 targets and the impact of Brexit.

So what does the sector expect in the coming year? UK Construction Online has approached a range of industry players from built environment professionals to building product manufacturers to find out.

Get Smart

“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.

“We are also seeing emerging, and existing, technology more readily embraced where once it was met with less enthusiasm. I 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

Sound Thinking 

“Many companies are investing in modern office spaces with Cat B fit-outs as a flexible, long-term solution with thoughtful consideration given to employee wellness, from visual appeal to acoustic comfort.

“The reconfiguring and repurposing of office spaces is a top priority, as employers look to create a calm, welcoming atmosphere for returning workers. Other considerations such as ventilation, flexibility, and optimum ergonomic curation are also shaping the future of work environments and will play an increasingly role in 2021 design briefs.

“This is because of a growing focus on health and wellbeing from organisations who want environments to sound as good as they look, to ensure long term employee welfare.” – Ben Hancock, Managing Director, Oscar Acoustics

Method for Moderns

“Modular construction is also set to play a bigger role in the coming years. 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.

“Another major driver for change in the construction industry is sustainability. The industry will need to focus on the three Cs if it’s to make the progress that’s needed – cost, carbon and compliance. Compliance is fundamental, After that, cost and carbon will be the varying factors. Cost will need to focus on productivity and efficiency, carbon through the sector’s operations and the energy it uses in making and producing building products and finally compliance to ensure consistently high standards across all builds.” – Richard Waterhouse, Chief Strategy Officer, NBS

Fabric First

“In line with the drive towards sustainable building, we’ll see an increasing focus on the adoptions of a fabric first approach. Of course, recent changes to Part L have hastened built environment professionals along this energy efficient pathway.

“We’ll likely see efforts made by specifiers to achieve as low a U-value as possible, and an increasing focus on passive ventilation, innovative cavity wall and high-spec insulation products as we move away from a reliance on wasteful mechanical HVAC systems.” – Charlie Ayers, Managing Director, SureCav Ltd.

There’s no doubt we are at a crossroads, driven by digital and a more concerted effort to go green. Whilst differing opinions exist on how we achieve a better and brighter future for the construction industry in the UK, the goal is universal. Hopefully, 2021 will see greater collaboration across the built environment, demonstrating how the work we do actively improves people’s lives. The opportunity’s knocking, so let’s open the door to it.

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