What’s to come in 2021

It’s been an interesting year for architects and specifiers, COVID-19 aside. From the early signs of a digital construction revolution, a sea change in building safety regulations and a more concerted push towards our Net-Zero 2050 targets, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful. 

With 2021 fast approaching, bringing with it a new set of prospects, what new issues will we see arising and which subjects will rise to the fore? Importantly what will the industry need to do in order to maintain momentum behind all the positive work done this year against an unusual and challenging backdrop?

To find out more, we’ve gone out to a range of professionals across the built environment to get their take on the situation, defining and divining what topics are likely to set the agenda new year. 

Smart Moves

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 – PJ Farr, Managing Director, UK Connect

Sound Commercial Sense

‘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

Let’s Get Digital

“One aspect that we’ll see more of in the next few years is the adoption of digital tools from BIM through to online collaboration tools and specification tools. Experience from other industries shows that digital systems and access to data drives transformation of service and quality and improves productivity.  If we’re going to improve building quality the industry needs to become more digitally driven where data can be shared and analysed. With the introduction of the Building Safety Bill, there will need to be a new register of safe and approved construction products and having access to a central cloud-based platform where this information is readily available will help facilitate that.” – Richard Waterhouse, Chief Strategy Officer, NBS

New Talent

Increased focus is being placed on apprenticeships, with CITB set to expand apprenticeship support to all levy-registered construction employers throughout 2021. Support for employers will include help accessing grants, choosing the right apprenticeship standard and training provider, guidance through the Government’s online apprenticeships system, and building partnerships with colleges and training providers.

The theme of the 14thannual National Apprenticeship Week (which is set to take place in February 2021) has been announced as “Build the Future”, and there will be a revitalised focus on encouraging people to consider how apprenticeships help individuals to build the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career in construction. – Adrian Attwood, Executive Director, DBR Ltd

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 wasteful reliance on mechanical HVAC systems.” – Charlie Ayers, Managing Director, SureCav

As you can see, despite the disruption of 2020, there is a refreshing degree of positivity across the UK construction industry and it’s hoped this carries over into the new year. 

Whilst the seas ahead look rougher than usual, no doubt our architects and specifiers will harness the knowledge and utilise the innovations accrued of the past year to carve out a clear pathway to success, maintaining our hard-won reputation for building design excellence.