The best type of building, after all, is one so efficient and comfortable for its occupants that it needs very little energy in the first place to maintain overall comfort
Improving capacity, productivity and innovation in construction are key aspirations for the government, as success in these areas will have a significant impact on the health of the UK economy as well as the industry.
Although we are seeing smart methods of construction increasing, including offsite manufacturing which decreases build time and improves efficiency, it is important that innovation and sustainability does not get left behind.
Policy has focused on energy efficiency and carbon reduction in the last few years, but we also need to look further than this when designing buildings. Buildings should also improve comfort, health and wellbeing, not to mention reducing environmental impact. This means taking a fabric first approach to building, the most sustainable way to improve the energy performance of a building, as well as providing the public with security over energy costs.
The approach revolves around building an airtight and thermally effective envelope, first and foremost, before adding renewable technologies into the building. The best type of building, after all, is one so efficient and comfortable for its occupants that it needs very little energy in the first place to maintain overall comfort. A truly comfortable building should include good indoor air quality, excellent acoustics and light quality, in addition to a thermally efficient building envelope.
Not only must the construction industry increase the speed at which housing is delivered, we must also recognise the need of housing to be affordable too. At a time where the average age of first-time buyers is 30 (and 32 in London), we should be embracing smart methods of construction, which require less resource than traditional building methods to increase productivity and reduce the cost of buildings for first-time buyers.
However, it is important to remember that a house is also a home, and individual needs should be taken into consideration. As such, smart construction should not be about standardisation, but rather being flexible and able to adapt to the needs of the end user.
Teamed with a fabric first approach, smart methods of construction can also ensure energy efficiency and environmental performance through precision engineering, as well as reducing the ‘design’ versus ‘as built’ performance gap.
By adopting smart building, the industry can provide homes that are affordable, healthy and can be supplied quickly and efficiently. The productivity agenda is only a starting point for creating a built environment that is built to last and puts user comfort first.
The Construction Leadership Council’s Innovation in Buildings workstream, of which Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland’s General Delegate, Mike Chaldecott is chair, aims to embed new approaches to all phases of the construction process for buildings, utilising work already in progress such as the Digital Built Britain strategy and Smart Construction, to achieve enhanced productivity in the industry.
Jade Lewis is Director of Advocacy at Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland. In her role, Jade works closely with all levels of government, trade bodies and industry and informs Saint-Gobain’s policies on industry-wide initiatives. To find out more about the Innovation in Buildings workstream, click here.
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