Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UKGBC

Julie Hirigoyen

The big issue

I’d say it’s highly likely that the zeitgeist issue will continue to be the link between good sustainable design and the health and wellbeing of people using the buildings. Wellness and productivity have continued to enjoy a fairly meteoric rise in importance across both commercial and residential markets. The rapid acceleration of technologies providing relevant data on air quality, pollutants and CO2 concentrations is central to this trend.

The big challenge

It would be hard not to mention Brexit and the activation of Article 50 by the end of March 2017 as one of the biggest challenges that UK industry at large, not to mention the built environment industry, will need to grapple with. The uncertainty that this is already causing is affecting the market’s ability to make decisions for the longer-term. The earlier the government can provide some clarity the better.

The big opportunity

The industrial strategy demonstrates the government’s appetite to boost growth and productivity in the construction sector. The real opportunity here will be around the place-based execution of such an industrial approach, in particular the central role that cities and a sustainable built environment can play in that. This in itself throws up new opportunities for the public and private sector to work more closely together in the delivery of sustainable, healthy, liveable places that thrive well into the future.

The big project

The number of new homes started and completed will be making the headlines. What will be important is ensuring that those same headlines feature the high performance standards to which those homes were built from an energy and carbon efficiency perspective. Those standards should be based on the way those homes perform for their residents to ensure that we avoid issues around the performance gap, or indeed locking in carbon emissions for future generations.

The big story

Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan puts buildings back on centre stage. A stretching set of long-term policy measures will help to ensure that the carbon abatement potential of both new and existing buildings is exploited to the max.