A green year for developers – Sustainable construction

2020 was a turning point for developers, viewing their developments  with a green filter. It consolidated the importance of sustainable construction. This year we will see a ratcheting up of the "green" uptake in all projects where  off-site construction has the advantage.

Modern methods of construction/MMC facilitates innovation, a key element to mitigating the effects of climate change. It reduces site waste, develops products focused on energy efficiency, and its timber frames embody carbon. MMC offers the solution needed for developers to undertake sustainable construction.

Government plans

2020 saw the Prime Minister's 10-point plan for a Green Revolution which set the tone for what we will see in 2021. The Energy White Paper requires cross-sector synergies for example, developers will need to pay attention to the changes in the energy sector as it directly affects the way we build homes (the use of materials/products), the move towards clean energy (using solar panels, batteries and energy efficient products) and incorporating EV charge points and other Mobility aspects in developments.

We reported earlier last year on the changes announced by the Prime Minister to the planning system. This will have a profound impact on developers and in their use of off-site manufactured products, and the customisation of DfMA.  Developers will in addition need a wholistic approach to their "green" developments, on account of new measures such as the Biodiversity Net Gain.

Industry developments

Working with the industry UK GBC also brought out last year guidance in unlocking the delivery of net zero carbon buildings which is aimed at developers and project teams to support them in setting strategies at the outset of any project to streamline the delivery of net zero carbon buildings.

Within this snapshot focus on sustainability and anticipated change via the planning system, Mark Farmer and Mike De’Ath's report Build Homes, Build Jobs, Build Innovation brought in to focus the immense impact modular construction can have in the house-building industry sprinkled with sustainability as a theme.

Big players such as Berkeley, BoKlok, ilke Homes, Top Hat are all also framing their rhetoric and operations here. We are therefore about to see a concerted shift towards green construction and in that the use of MMC will be embedded within this sustainability matrix. 

Finally, just last month (and something we are tracking with interest) saw the launch of the Define the Need stage report of the Platform Design Programme part of the Construction Innovation Hub. The platform applies systems engineering and manufacturing techniques that will create a market for buildings made from platform construction systems. Such a system can be used to reduce lifetime carbon emissions and integrate active renewable energy systems. This platform brings together public and private sector main players and offers an adaptable solution for varied end-use.  

Summary

This focus on building green has a wider remit. In 2020 we also saw the launch of the Construction Playbook which has MMC as one of its focuses and which will play a key role in public works projects. The playbook states that achieving sustainable outcomes should be considered alongside net zero carbon commitments. 

We believe these extra push factors via public sector works channels and public-private collaborations will see off-site construction playing an important role in the pipeline of sustainable developments in 2021.

Suriya Edwards- Foot Anstey

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