Andrew Reid, Commercial Director at Epwin Group, discusses the organisation’s Building for the Future research project and asks: What is driving change in UK housing design?
Building for the Future combines results of a survey of architects and specifiers with in-depth interviews and desktop research and we think the results are really interesting. The research has unearthed nine key themes. These demonstrate not only the challenges facing the design and build community, but also the optimism surrounding innovation within the industry.
By far the most influential factor to respondents is the issue of our increasing urban population, with 70% of those surveyed viewing it as a significant issue. Some consider this, combined with a lack of available land for development in our urban areas, one of the great challenges of our time.
This is not the only area of concern. Half of respondents feel that climate change is already having an impact on certain design and build decisions and should be an even greater consideration in the coming years.
Nearly a third felt that the need for green spaces, and innovation in providing them in urban areas, will be increasingly influential on design decisions. Additionally, a quarter of respondents raised the issue of our ageing population and the pressing need for more homes designed specifically with this demographic in mind.
There is also concern about the impact that skills shortages in the construction sector could have on housing. Nearly a fifth of respondents are worried that the lack of a skilled workforce could worsen the housing crisis, or could even lead to simpler construction methods or less diversity in housing design.
However, there is also hope and optimism. Half of respondents believe that advances in technology and innovation in sustainable building materials and products are improving the way housing looks and performs for its residents. In particular, BIM was raised as being responsible for the biggest transformation in architecture since the introduction of computers.
15% feel that the technological advances in the architectural world are changing the face of design. The same number expressed positive views about the flexibility and speed of construction offered by modular homes, which could help to offset some of the negative issues facing the industry, such as skills shortages and the housing crisis.
All respondents agree on one point, and that is regardless of the pressures facing the architectural world, there is a sense that good design will always be at the heart of delivering successful communities.