Tassos Kougionis, Principal Consultant – Residential – Sustainable Construction Group, BSRIA, kicked off by saying that tomorrow’s challenges in today’s building are defined by today’s actions and decisions.
One of the biggest challenges for the residential sector will be the “increased homes delivery”. In February 2017 – government issued its Housing White Paper which promised 250,000 new homes a year – quite the increase from recent delivery rates which were 150,000-170,000 new homes a year.
In terms of challenges in future infrastructure, and in choosing new development locations, the construction industry should carefully consider emerging social, environmental and technological trends in order to offer the right product, at the right time and at the right location.
He discussed the “megatrend” of urbanisation, quoting UN predictions that by 2050, 70 per cent of the world's population will live in urban centres. But “different generations have different needs” and this will need to be considered when looking into the diversification of properties within the urban landscapes.
Regarding brand reputation – Tassos posed the following questions: “is there a home performance guarantee? why is your product unique?; why are houses are not treated like other products?; how good quality is considered during property evaluation?; and how are you different? One must ask: “what is your offering”? “Location, location, location was king! but in the future health and wellbeing will become increasingly important.”
He said that if phones stop working we usually replace them: but this isn’t something we can do with the built environment – we must take care of buildings, retrofitting and adapting them to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
Tassos advocated that today's buildings will be tomorrow’s challenges. He called for much more research, saying: "in order to address a challenge we need to understand it" and predicted that as new data-rich products come to market, property selection could become the subject of much “greater consumer scrutiny”.
Modern methods of construction (MMC) and new technology is the future – but it must be simple for the user! Also we need to communicate to the consumer the fact that different technologies and systems installed in their homes have different lifespans. The Internet of Things (IoT) and smart homes will assist the industry in communicating this information more efficiently to the user. New diagnostic tools and products will also assist residents in understanding how to best use their properties. There are also new players entering the market – such as the “Google house”.
Tassos said: “We need to understand the consumer: we need to focus on the consumer and become better in using good practice and high quality as key elements of our marketing strategies. We may have been spoiled as an industry because at the moment we just build houses and people buy them but this might not be the case in the future.”
It is vital to remember that the (traditional) financial markets are also changing fast with funding mechanisms and new products being released such as “green” mortgages. These changes will affect the consumer’s purchasing powers and investment selection criteria.
In conclusion – Tassos said that “in order to defeat a challenge we need to understand it. Research is essential! We need to understand what we offer as a product to the consumer, and how we can keep things simple". Tassos’ parting comment was: “today’s decisions will shape the future! Innovate and think big!”.