As the century ends, industry leaders and stars of tomorrow offer their visions for the future of construction. What will it be like in the year 2005 and beyond?
Redrow chairman Steve Morgan envisages a world where prefabrication is the norm among housebuilders but green construction fails to make it into the millennium.

The top 10 builders will increase their market share. I foresee one or two mergers, with the strong getting stronger. I hope we are one of those. We will continue to realise possibilities and gain market share.

We are going to see more prefabricated construction. The industry is facing a skills shortage at the moment – a number of builders have neglected trades and training and that is going to result in a labour crisis. Crisis is the mother of invention so there will be more site assembly and less site construction. The Housing Forum (set up to promote the Egan agenda in housebuilding) is partly leading the way in this.

IT will only affect the fringes of housebuilding, although in terms of internal management systems, all housebuilders are increasingly reliant on it.

In terms of design, houses will be designed to cater for Internet use. But I don’t think people will be buying houses over the web. We were one of the first housebuilders to have a web site offering information for purchasers, but buying a house is not like buying a car because people want to see what environment it is in.

The use of recycled building materials is just a fad. You might do a one-off design using reclaimed bricks if you want an old-fashioned look, but new materials are cheaper.

You could get quite depressed about planning. Regrettably, I don’t see it getting any better. Whichever political party we are looking at, the problem is the same. It should be local democracy that decides, but that means nimbyism. We have a desperate need for housing fighting against in-built nimbyism. It’s the irresistible force meeting the unmovable object. As an industry we are happy to build on brownfield or greenfield sites but there is a limited supply of both. There has to be new housing, but you always run into the political issue and it won’t get any easier to provide it.

Fantasy millennium project:

I have always wanted to build a really tall skyscraper

Lord Foster thinks the emphasis in the next century will be on sustainable architecture.

The architecture of the future will, of necessity, be one that addresses the world’s ecological crisis. Architecture can contribute to dealing with this crisis to a degree that few other activities can. Buildings use 50% of the energy consumed in the world, yet virtually every one could be designed to run on a fraction of its current energy levels.

Why do we rely so heavily on artificial lighting when we can easily design buildings that are filled with daylight? Why do we continue to rely on wasteful air-conditioning systems in locations where, in so many cases, we could simply open a window? A holistic approach to architecture – one that sees buildings as the sum of all the systems at work within them – is the start of the solution to our problems. Structure, form and materials each have their part to play. Natural lighting and ventilation, recycled rainwater, and heat recycled from lights, computers and people can all help.

Applying these methods in the Reichstag in Berlin we were able to reduce the building’s energy requirements to such an extent that it creates more energy than it consumes. Our integrated energy strategy has also allowed us to reduce pollution: the Reichstag burns renewable vegetable oil, rather than fossil fuels, which has led to a 94% reduction in its carbon dioxide emissions. If a 19th-century building can be transformed in this way, how much easier is it to design new buildings that make responsible use of precious resources?

However, buildings must be seen in the context of our ever-expanding cities and their infrastructures. Unchecked urban sprawl is one of the chief problems facing the world today – between 1970 and 1990 the population of greater Chicago increased 4%, yet its physical area grew 50%. The peripheral growth of cities is rarely accompanied by integrated public transport networks. Instead, people travel greater distances by car.

Higher urban densities provide one solution to this problem. It is surprising to discover that the world’s two most densely populated regions, Monaco and Macao, are at opposite ends of the economic spectrum. High density – or high rise – does not automatically mean overcrowding or economic hardship; it can also lead to improved quality of life, where housing, work and leisure facilities are all close by.

The Millennium Tower that we have proposed in Tokyo takes a traditional city quarter – housing, shops, restaurants, cinemas, museums, sporting facilities, green spaces and public transport networks – and turns it on its side to create a building with a multiplicity of uses. It would be more than 800 m high with 170 storeys – twice the height of anything so far built – and would house a community of up to 60 000 people. This is 20 000 more than the population of Monaco in a virtually self-sufficient, fully self-sustaining community in the sky.

This sounds like future fantasy. But we have, now, all the means at our disposal to create such buildings. There are no technological barriers to a sustainable architecture. With political will, the architecture of the future could be the architecture of today.

Katy Ghahremani + Michael Kohn won this year’s Concept House competition so they already know a fair bit about how we will live in the future. They think their HangarHouse will become a bestseller.

One hundred years ago, Adolf Loos thought that his role as architect of a home was to provide a framework upon which carpets and tapestries could be hung. One hundred years on, we believe Loos was really onto something. As our lifestyle needs become increasingly complex and demanding, there is a growing market for flexible living solutions.

In the HangarHouse, we have created a deliberately familiar domestic shape for the basic frame and invited people to choose what else they want from a computerised catalogue. It could be a one-lane swimming pool clipped to the roof, prefabricated titanium cladding panels and so on. They can also work with an energy expert to devise a personalised energy system. This will control heating, ventilation and communications.

We predict that in the new millennium we will be successfully exporting the HangarHouse to thousands of free-thinking homeowners across Europe.

Fantasy millennium project:

Masterplanning an experimental scheme to really push back the boundaries of housing

There will be a reaction to the false gods: contractors who won’t contract, management consultants and “spin” as a substitute for action. This will lead clients to ask who has the skills to get things designed and built for best value

Paul Morrell, Senior Partner at Davis Langdon & Everest

Bovis chairman Sir Frank Lampl foresees a construction sector boasting a handful of global players – but none of them are UK firms.

Globalisation and IT will create consolidation in the construction sector. There will be a few global players. Two or three will come from Europe and one from Australia – that’s us, of course, now that we are owned by Lend Lease. There will be two or three from the USA, one Brazilian and a Japanese dark horse. The Japanese are ahead technically but behind in value engineering.

These firms will operate across the world because the global need for construction is endless – Brazil alone needs 22 million homes – and because the economic cycle is different around the world.

Private clients will follow the trend set by the public sector and use the private finance initiative to procure buildings, another factor in producing global players. The construction sector will have to provide long-term property services, from design to facilities management.

More and more construction firms are trying to reposition themselves in the service sector, which is ridiculously over-valued by the stock market. As construction firms become more successful at meeting clients’ requirements, this will level out.

IT will also drive consolidation because it is very expensive. There is a need to keep up with developments but also a danger of becoming interested in the possibilities of IT to the point where you forget about improving the management process. Management must be done by people.

Fantasy millennium project:

To construct a town in space

Amanda Levete of Stirling Prize winner Future Systems says architects will be leading public debate on the design process, and thinks it is time to get serious about improving public transport.

The amount of media coverage being devoted to architecture and design has meant that the public now has a real desire to understand the issues and to become involved in the process.

In the next five to 10 years, architects have an opportunity not just to react to the public mood but to lead it. They can make the design process more democratic. This does not mean innovation will be restricted. Rather, people will be helped to understand – and therefore support – more challenging ideas. It’s difficult to talk for the whole profession, but I think architects are ready to take this on.

Once architecture is on the national curriculum in primary schools – and I think that will happen in the next 10 years – it will make a huge difference. It’s absolutely vital if architecture is to become meaningful to people.

Lord Rogers’ urban taskforce has been part of the process of putting architecture on the wider political agenda but we need to be more proactive. We will have to start doing more than just talking vaguely about improving public transport and come up with some new designs for those antiquated buses and suggest alternatives that would make life better for all of us.

Fantasy millennium project:

To redesign the London bus

Chris Wise, director of Expedition Engineering and professor of creative design at Imperial College, London, foresees a virtual world where you can double-click to the destination of your choice.

Let’s assume that we succeed in making the planet environmentally sustainable. The city of the future will no longer be physical. Imagination will usurp reality. Computers will respond to voice, touch and thought. As soon as someone invents realistic holographic people, a city will become a pop-down menu taken from the whole world. I can imagine a virtual me going with my virtual friends to a virtual Eiffel Tower without ever leaving my (mostly virtual) house.

Buildings will become neutral backgrounds into which we can project alternative realities as we wish, just like television weather maps are projected onto a blue background. Cities will just be collections of these imaginary places, linked in real-time.

Physical movement will be unnecessary. You will be able to double-click to your virtual destination, and if you want to visit other friends or places along the way, you will be able to do that, too. None of them will be physically real, but they will be the product of thousands of virtual interactions. The earth will simply become a backdrop. We will be able to enjoy space travel without leaving home. Cars and planes will be replaced by physical/virtual interfaces into which you can entrust your body and mind. Among the most popular will be the Lamborghini Zip-a-de-doo-dah, which will be the fastest way to access all this wonderful stuff.

Fantasy millennium project:

I want to get into my Zip-a-de-doo-dah and be transported to Jupiter – virtually, of course

Sir Michael Latham looks forward to the renaissance of architecture and the demise of litigation and the PFI.

Jeffrey Archer’s downfall will probably leave a clear path for Ken Livingstone. If he is elected mayor, he will make some radical changes to planning linked to transport that could dramatically change the London skyline and development

Malcolm Whetstone, Partner at GVA Grimley Building Consultancy

The next few years will be an exciting time. The Egan reforms will start paying dividends with real cost savings being made. The importance of specialists will be more recognised by clients, who will want to see them partnering with main contractors. The tax changes will encourage subcontractors to take people on to their books, but main contractors will remain in a management role.

I also expect to see an increasing interest in trust funds. If these had been set up on the lottery projects where clients have gone bust, consultants and contractors would not have lost their money. Retentions will disappear, as clients expect defect-free buildings or ask for bonds instead of retention cash. The number of court cases has reduced dramatically and I expect it to fall still further as adjudication takes hold.

I also expect the new construction and engineering contract to grow in popularity. We will probably see a new partnering contract. It won’t be very good. It’s a contradiction in terms – partnering is an approach, not a legal document.

I expect to see a growing interest in the role of architecture, and I welcome it. Clients increasingly want buildings to have style and oomph, rather than being faceless sheds, although I don’t think that the architect will re-emerge as leader of the team. I don’t sense a happy time ahead for housebuilders. Nimby pressures will continue to grow. Private housebuilders will have to look at the redevelopment of all types of urban site. I see trouble ahead for the private finance initiative, too. The trade unions are hostile to basic elements of PFI and so are some professionals, such as doctors. The Treasury has never really liked it, either. I expect to see more emphasis on mixed development or more diluted PFIs where the public sector retains responsibility for the workforce.

Fantasy millennium project:

A better garden shed

Ian Eggers is Mace’s project manager on the Greater London Authority building. He predicts that IT will force designers to hand over more responsibility to specialist contractors.

IT is a major factor. In the next five to 10 years, suppliers and manufacturers will be connected to a project electronically, so the transfer of design details from suppliers and manufacturers will become a lot quicker.

We will need fewer managers on site. The traditional construction manager’s and contractor’s contributions will get smaller because we will be relying more on the knowledge of suppliers.

IT will encourage a shift away from designers having full responsibility. Trade specialists will take on more of a design role because you get a much greater surety on time, costs and quality.

My role as a project manager is going to become a lot more reliant on IT. In five years, if not sooner, I can see myself pulling up drawings from a mobile phone.

Fantasy millennium project:

Rebuilding West Ham’s Upton Park stadium

Julia Barfield of Millennium Wheel architect Marks Barfield (pictured with David Marks) wants architecture to become a catalyst for economic regeneration.

In the future, we want to see architecture becoming the engine for the regeneration of cities, just as the wheel is proving to be on the South Bank. We’d love to do more projects like that. Architecture should be beneficial – not just to the way cities look but also economically.

With the upsurge of project management, there has been a trend to devalue the design side of things. I hope we can work more co-operatively and put design higher up the agenda. It’s an attitude of mind.

There is also no doubt that future projects will take the whole sustainability debate forward. To design a building without considering sustainability is fundamentally irresponsible.

Fantasy millennium project:

We’ve already done it

Citex chief executive Oliver Jones’ crystal ball reveals a privatised urban community.

The strategic partnerships in some parts of the industry will be developed further. Instead of being paid fees for services, the amount we are paid will depend on what value we add to our client’s business. This “co-sourcing”, as it is called, is already happening with some IT providers. If the client performs better, the supplier receives a share of that. In the same way, facilities managers’ fees will be tied in with the client’s performance.

We will see a premier league of prime management contractors offering a total property outsourcing service. I would like to see the development of urban facilities management. I would like to see the government completely outsourcing the management of major cities. In other words, I would like to see the privatisation of the management of local communities.

E-mail as the basic tool for quick communication is encouraging firms to actively use computers, rather than sit back and watch others

Greg Fanning, Partner at the Davidson Partnership

Fantasy millennium project:

Facilities management of Alpine ski resorts

Guy Battle of consulting engineer Battle McCarthy says we will be growing buildings from the molecules up.

In the future, we’ll be able to grow buildings, thanks to nano technology – the architecture of molecules and atoms. Architects will be specifying buildings by working with materials scientists. For example, you will be able to say, “I want a wall here”, and when it has grown, you can say, “I want the material to be able to absorb moisture at its inner surface and to release moisture from its outer face.”

The wall might be grown in a factory, say, then shipped as a precast element to site. At the moment, we are limited only by the size of things that we can carry, but if you’ve got robots putting a building up on site, size need not matter.

We won’t need to build power stations. Combined heat and power units in every building will generate electricity and heat. Environmental concerns are having a huge impact on construction. In future, you won’t get planning permission for your site unless you address sustainability.

Soon, buildings’ carbon emissions will be monitored and users will be given carbon credits for saving energy. Then, users will be trading their credits on the stock market. And assessing how much carbon a building saves will create another role for engineers.

Fantasy millennium project:

An eco-friendly high rise for the USA

Manhattan Loft Corporation chairman Harry Handelsman predicts more flexible living environments.

Hopefully, the Internet will make home buyers a lot more discerning. Quality, style, opportunity will be on screen, on your television, or wherever. There will be a mass move towards wanting something that is modern, exciting and value for money.

Developers will no longer be able to thrust their tastes on others. They will have to offer people a choice that is to their liking. People will want more flexible space. More people will want to work from home and they will want to have an environment that is conducive to both living and working.

Technology will offer immediate flexibility of space. The buildings will try to be self-generating as much as possible in terms of heat, electricity and so on. The popularity of inner cities is going to increase. Developers will cater to the creation of facilities for children, such as public spaces, special spaces, making city living more comfortable. When we get really good public transport connections, then one might find satellite areas of larger cities that will be areas to go home to. But they will be planned and designed in a more modern, environmentally friendly way than, say, Milton Keynes. I also believe the integration between commercial and residential districts is going to be greater.

Fantasy millennium project:

A true millennium village in London with a mix of uses and tenures, amenities, IT infrastructure and public spaces

Ann Minogue, partner in CMS Cameron McKenna, will be tending her roses in 2005, while an aura of happiness envelopes construction.

By 2005, the industry will have made dramatic strides towards improving its processes. It will have discarded its “my lawyer can beat up your lawyer” approach – and discarded its lawyers, too. Technology, off-site fabrication and a new emphasis on brain rather than brawn will result in many more women on site. Site conditions will dramatically improve as a result.

Contract forms will become short and simple, with the JCT leading the way. Letters of intent will disappear and it will be standard practice to sign contracts before work starts on site. A stable economy will result in main contractors and subcontractors building up their capital base. Cyclical redundancy, standard surety bonds and other evils will disappear. Sir Michael Latham will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (jointly with Rudi Klein and Jennie Price).

Meanwhile, I will be 50 and dead-heading roses in the garden.

Fantasy millennium project:

Commissioning a Future Systems house on the north-west coast of Scotland