Three Trends That Will Impact Commercial New Build In 2022

Predictions for the year ahead are notoriously difficult to make and are prone to error.

Who on earth predicted the pandemic and the consequent fallout?

Predicting what will happen in UK construction in 2022 is not any less difficult.

BUT – there are three trends that will not go away in 2022.

These three areas will drive through a massive change both next year and for the foreseeable future for new commercial buildings.

They will affect architects, principal contractors, sub-contractors, specifiers, multinationals and SMEs right down the construction chain.

So what are they?

These are the three areas that will have the most significant impact and will create opportunities and profits for those that get ahead of the curve.

1. Sustainability

Sustainability has just become very specific and will soon be the cornerstone of any new build project.

But what does sustainability cover?

Here is a quick run-through of the key sustainability factors for new projects next year:

Low energy buildings –

UK gas and electricity prices are through the roof.

Merely switching energy suppliers is not the answer with many utility suppliers going into liquidation this year.

Buildings will need to have low energy use as part of their design.

A good example of this comes from one of our own clients, Amroc Heating Services.

They now install both underfloor heating and thermally active building structures (TABS) and report great interest in this low energy technology.

Energy Efficiency Monitoring & Control

If you cannot measure – you cannot manage.

BMS systems and BEMS systems need to ensure the building does not waste energy.

Optimisation of BMS/BEMS is critical.

Technology can help with this greatly, but human behaviour is an overlooked factor.

New buildings often come with first class expensive advanced systems AND an incredibly poor handover with no technical knowledge transfer.

The building operator or FM needs to know HOW the system operates – how to ensure they optimise it both for the building’s operation and for the functions of its users.

Expensive technology nobody understands – the white elephant of tech- will become a thing of the past. It will not stand scrutiny.

Everyone will become focused on value engineering.

A greater reliance on renewable energy sources (or compatibility with them)

 Automotive firms are moving their corporate budgets from diesel and petrol fuelled cars to electric, hybrid and other technologies.

Heating and cooling and power systems for buildings will go the same way.

Again, see the TABS example above. This system is already compatible with renewable energy.

Renewable energy is here to stay.

Rising utility prices will speed up this.

Carbon Reduction & Climate Change

Think of these as a giant umbrella over the points above.

These two issues sit above party politics.

A 2020 UN Report said of the construction sector

When adding emissions from the building construction industry on top of operational emissions, the sector accounted for 38 per cent of total global energy-related CO2 emissions”.

Expect changes in UK legislation, especially after COP26.

Expect to see an uptake of MMC and a closer scrutiny of how the construction industry plans to reduce its CO2 emissions.

2. Use of Technology – Software

Many industries have moved to the ‘working from home’ scenario, but that is not always possible in construction, is it?

  • Expect more use of handheld note pads and devices with apps for logging data and transferring files back to the office.
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) will become more prominent with people interacting more and more with this for effective use of time, communication and efficiency.
  • We devised our very own PORTAL as a way of saving a client’s time and money, producing reams of paper folders and files and printing off hard copies. This can all be stored and retrieved digitally.
  • Working from home and effective communication

2020/21 saw us all become Zoom and Microsoft teams meeting experts.

Love it or hate it though – it was a lifesaver for many businesses and this trend will continue. Software such as Slack is often used to ensure teams stay connected whilst working remotely.  Communication and how stakeholders collaborate on a project will increasingly rely on using a digital interface.

3. Social & Economic Changes- Health & Well Being

Buildings funded from the public sector are now expected to factor in the above as critical factors to prove proof of concept.

The reasons for constructing a building from the outset are now more complex.

The singular purpose concept of a building is now more important than ever.

New developments need to include multi purpose usage.

For the first time, the impact of a building on the local community is now being examined.

Design and building concept has to take this into account and the goal is to think of the ‘lasting legacy’ of building that will continue to benefit several generations of people.

Already in Wales, we are seeing this happen with recent developments being influenced by The Well Being and future Generations Act 2015.

The health of the building users is also becoming increasingly important.

This is already a practical issue in such things as:

  • Air quality.
  • Lighting – lighting colour temperature and wall wash effect can all affect people’s health causing headaches, migraines and alertness and can even alter productivity.
  • Space heating & cooling – radiant heating instead of airflow with less HVAC being used.
  • H&S not just at handover but for the life cycle of the building.
  • A golden thread of information for the building users for its life cycle.
  • Fire regulations – choice of materials – regulations for buildings over 18 metres, etc

So is this crystal ball gazing or accepting the inevitable?

We think it’s the latter.

We all know the name of the game is time is money. Get the job done and get paid.

When you are in the ‘Monday to Friday – ‘muck and bullets’ of a construction firm, it can seem that this is all there is to think about.

But as Bob Dylan once sang ‘ the times they are a  changin’’

We frequently associate change with annoyance and interference with tried and trusted ways of doing things.

But accepting and embracing it sometimes means seeing untold opportunities.

Thank you for reading!

Best wishes for 2022. The Green Hat Team.