The turn of the year is a traditional time to consider what may happen in the 12 months ahead. These industry experts share their thoughts

Embrace technological tools

Insolvencies have unfortunately characterised the past year in construction. The cheap-money era – with high levels of credit and confidence – is over and contractors are feeling the crunch of lower financing levels. When contractors are under financial pressure, it penetrates every part of the supply chain.  

Neeral Shah

The next year will see large suppliers desperately trying to retain large contractors, but inevitably being forced to increase prices and jeopardise relationships. This will disrupt the entire ecosystem.

Large suppliers will start targeting small and mid-tier contractors, which have long been overlooked, and large contractors will look out for the best deals regardless of a supplier’s size or historic relationships. In turn, this will increase the need for greater visibility and assurances – word of mouth won’t suffice. 

Enter technology: while progress towards digital transformation has traditionally lagged, 2024 will see the acceleration towards an industry-wide embrace of technological tools, helping to increase transparency and trust.

Neeral Shah is founder and CEO of YardLink

>> Also read: Is 2024 already lost to dithering and delay?

Growing appetite for timber

While some of the UK’s more progressive developers have laid the groundwork in establishing a growing timber office culture, 2024 should be the year in which we truly see its renaissance if we are going to meet the industry’s steadfast demand for low-carbon buildings.

Theo Michell, COO, Bywater

As the construction sector continues its decarbonisation journey, Bywater is seeing huge opportunity – and investor appetite – for unlocking CLT projects. Occupiers increasingly want healthy office space that shows an evidence-based, low-carbon approach to sustainable design that, wherever possible, extends, reuses and adapts what is already there.

While the UK’s timber economy may still be in its nascent stages, we are proud to be part of a select number of developers who are paving the way for widespread adoption in years to come.”

Theo Michell is COO of Bywater Properties

>> Also read: Best of 2023: Features

Focus on climate resilience

The increasing influence of reporting frameworks such as TCFD, TNFD and now the new guidance around biodiversity net gain (BNG), all point to a trend that, from investors and occupiers – and down through the whole real estate supply chain– there will be much more accountability and visibility to understand and report on the climate resilience of built assets and their impacts on the environment.

Josh Bullard, Divisional Director, Hydrock

Expect more focus from the real estate sector on understanding risks from climate change and assessing how to adapt. The emergence of green taxonomy will help to support investment through greater transparency around what constitutes a “green investment”, helping to mobilise capital quicker for adaptation projects.

Each sector, including the built environment, will have a rule book on how to ensure investment is delivered appropriately.

Josh Bullard is divisional director, smart energy and sustainability, at Hydrock 

>> Also read: Best of 2023: Interviews

Alternatives to home ownership

Looking ahead to the housing market in 2024, the private-for-sale market remains challenging, due to ongoing shortages and slower demand for homes. However, these challenges offer exciting opportunities for developers to be innovative in introducing new home ownership models for future home buyers as well as alternatives to home ownership.

Vandecasteele, Thomas[92]

Trends like co-living are gaining traction, offering smaller living spaces with ample amenity spaces – a balanced approach to meet the demand for quality rental products.

Addressing the housing crisis will require creative solutions. Public-private partnerships, especially involving housing associations, could play a crucial role. Housing associations have been dealing with challenges, but they have the expertise and the infrastructure to make a real impact in the rental sector.

There is still a significant pool of cash in the investment landscape and combining that with the experience of housing associations could be a winning formula to tackle the housing crisis and provide more options in the rental market.

Thomas Vandecasteele is managing director of Legendre UK 

>> Also read: Best of 2023: Columns and opinion pieces

Commitment to the knowledge economy

In the face of market challenges impacting the private sector and funding obstacles affecting the public sector, we advocate for an integrated approach that leverages the strengths of both sectors to unlock development. Not only do we need to bring funds to the table, but we also need to ensure funds are used well.

Stephen Cowperthwaite

At the core of this vision is a commitment to the knowledge economy, recognising intellectual capital as the cornerstone for progress. As we transcend sector-specific boundaries, the industry’s pivot towards dedicated public-private collaboration becomes paramount.

Getting these foundational elements right will not only benefit the traditional sectors but also create positive ripples throughout our communities, resulting in tangible outcomes like job creation and talent retention.

Stepping into 2024, a collaborative and holistic approach is crucial. Together, we can unlock the full potential of our cities, defining a future marked not merely by innovation, growth, and prosperity but also by a profound commitment to shared progress and inclusiveness.

Stephen Cowperthwaite is principal and managing director regions at Avison Young UK

Growing the B Corp movement in real estate

In the year ahead, I see more and more evidence of our industry’s ambition and expectation for making a greater positive impact on the world, environmentally and socially. That ranges from charitable engagement through to material specifications, re-thinking the future of our built environment and working with young people to show that there is a place for them in professions like building surveying, including the emerging fields of expertise which we are only starting to understand.

Alistair Allison_CEO_TFT

Without measurements and clear standards for better outcomes, these ambitions could founder. On the other hand, too many certifications can dilute impact as well. Addressing this dilemma led us to certify as a B Corp at the end of 2022.

As we approach the first anniversary of our certification, I am glad to see widening interest in B Corp from different kinds of businesses, including clients and project partners. As well as a measurement tool which scales to your size and potential for impact, B Corp is a community for sharing ideas and solutions.

I hope that 2024 will continue to see more of our industry join that community so that our collective ambitions will be better aligned and more likely to succeed by working in tandem.

Alistair Allison is CEO at TFT