A Bright future predicted for housing construction

on 02 November, 2016

Concerns about Brexit’s impact on everything ranging from finance to science has been brought up in the aftermath of the vote on 24 June.

One of the major talking points in the wake of the decision has been around the country’s current housing shortage with a YouGov poll from this year revealing that first time house buyers are now 38-years-old, on average.

However, the decision to leave the EU doesn’t appear to be having a dramatic impact on housing construction with local authorities keen to ensure that large-scale quality homes are being built.

It’s positive - Brexit hasn’t had the impact people thought it would. In terms of volume it’s still there and in terms of local authorities releasing land - we have a housing shortage across the country, but landowners and councils are releasing the land so I see the future as being buoyant.

From our perspective it hasn’t impacted on us or on our sales; ultimately people need houses and there are still government incentives.

Having spent more than a decade working as an architect I have gained a real insight into the industry and its practices. I can now highlight the positive approach that local councils are taking towards housing construction, thanks to the increased number of architects working in local authorities.

There are authorities in major cities, such as Leeds, who have professional architects who have a very good understanding of what we do as professionals and why we do it. They can ultimately critique our work.

From my experience, northern cities are now adopting a similar framework to what is in place in London, whereby any work sent through to the local authority is sent through a process within a planning submission where architects who work directly within the council would assess and evaluate what you’ve suggested. That certainly wasn’t the norm in the north 10-15 years ago.

Now we design with legislation in mind in a controlled environment and there is also lots of design teams within the local authorities and we have to comply with a design document that has been put in place.

However, despite Brexit’s limited impact, there are still challenges that are having to be negotiated in the housing construction industry.

The biggest impact I’ve seen was during the recession when many people in trades changed jobs because there wasn’t any work for them and what we have now is a shortage in certain trades.

I can’t see it being a major constraint in the future but there is a need in the industry for young people to take up apprenticeships and pick up these trades.

Traditional trades such as bricklayers remain in high demand and continue to be vital to large-scale house construction, despite some changes to the types housing being constructed.

Although the emergence of television programmes such as ‘Grand Designs’ where homes are being constructed using a range of materials, people are remaining loyal to traditional styles and building materials.

There’s been a step change away from traditional bricks, stone and render to more contemporary modern materials like cladding systems that are in city centres. There’s a contrast in residential housing material and commercial material, but I think that traditional types of materials will be used for as long as we can.

It seems to be that everyone wants to build their own house or go on Grand Designs, but ultimately people like the safety and comfort of what they’ve been used to for the past 70 years and what they’ve grown up with.

Despite the reliance on traditional materials and skills, the latest techniques are being used by Strata architects to design these homes from the start of the project, something that is proving valuable to both the builder and the eventual owner of the house.

In terms of housing delivery, we’re working in an environment where we have sped up the process and speed of the sales.

There are various things that we can do early on from a design perspective, which includes understanding a build programme, build route and sales route. Instead of designing in layout you need to design in terms of if they were in a row here would they sell?

Michael Barnett is head of design at Strata Homes.

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