As the UK aims to meet Net Zero targets, more sustainability-focused legislation is coming into force.
Large UK companies consisting of 500 or more employees and generating £500M+ turnover are now required to disclose climate-related financial risks and opportunities to stakeholders. While the Sustainable Disclosure Requirements (SDR) are yet to be finalised, these are expected to become part of the UK sustainability reporting standard in 2023.
And, as sustainability regulations get tighter in the building sector, and ESG moves increasingly higher on companies’ agendas, the market is seeking lower carbon, more recycled alternatives to traditional building materials. Green building materials have grown in popularity significantly in the past decade and the global green building materials market is expected to project a notable annual growth rate of over 10% by 2030.
With energy bills at their highest ever level too, 2023 might be the year that the industry and public gear up to tackle the retrofit challenge. The latest version of the National Retrofit Strategy explains what needs to happen.
Approved Documents outline the requirements for complying with building regulations in England. They offer guidance on various aspects of building design and construction, such as structural safety, fire safety, energy efficiency, accessibility, and more.
In June, Approved Document F (Ventilation) and L (Conservation of fuel and power) will be updated.
Key changes include:
There are also new standards for the efficiency of heating and boiler systems in both domestic and non-domestic buildings, and also lighting efficiency, air flow rates and CO2 monitoring in non-domestic buildings.
Approved Document O and S will also be introduced. These focus on overheating in buildings and infrastructure for the charging of electric vehicles.
According to industry analysts Barbour ABI, growth in construction output will be near zero throughout Europe this year. Uncertainty has become the norm, with volatility in the availability of labour and materials and in prices, exacerbated by the increases in energy costs.
However, while the industry may face some challenges, it’s not all bad news. Despite slowdowns in sectors including residential and commercial, infrastructure is in much brighter spot. It is one of the construction sectors that is expected to grow this year, with the Construction Products Association predicting 3.8% growth in 2023.
For years, the messaging has been clear – construction needs to modernise. And the word years is not an exaggeration. It was as long ago as 2005 that the National Audit Office published Using Modern Methods of Construction to Build Homes More Quickly and Efficiently. It defined MMC as “a process to produce more, better quality homes in less time.”
It seemed that the next big push for MMC was in the Autumn 2017 budget. The government indicated a preference for using new approaches such as offsite manufacturing in public sector projects.
MMC champion Mark Farmer’s Modernise or Die was published in 2016, and built upon previous reports including Sir Michael Latham’s Constructing the Team (1994) and Sir John Egan’s Rethinking Construction (1998).
The Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the Future (published November 2017) and Construction Sector Deal (published July 2018) both expanded further upon this, again pushing for new methods and improved efficiency.
So, why is this a trend for 2023? Well, in 2022, we saw some real steps forward. One of the most prominent activities was the publication of the Product Platform Rulebook by the Construction Innovation Hub. It outlined the guiding principles for platform-based construction, an approach that is based on manufacturing common, repeatable, interoperable components for buildings. An example has already been delivered, which was faster, lower carbon and better value than a traditional build.
After lagging behind for several years, the construction industry has benefitted from significant growth in digitisation and technology in recent times, thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year won’t be any different.
The use of AI is projected to grow 183% over the next two years within construction businesses. Digital Twins are coming to the fore, with the market valued at $3.6 billion USD in 2021 and projected to reach $63bn USD by 2028. And investment in technology continues to perform well, with records regularly being broken.
According to the Construction Leadership Council, material prices are likely to keep increasing this year due to the energy crisis. While this might put pressure on energy-intensive products such as bricks, cement, plasterboard, and insulation, improvements in product availability should help to keep this from spiralling too far out of control. Some materials are even starting to reduce in price, for example timber, due to large stock reserves in the UK and reduced shipping costs.
Header image via William Daigneault on Unsplash.
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