The Existing Challenges
There are two factors to consider about the future of the residential housing sector. Existing challenges, which COVID-19 has exacerbated, and changes made in residential design and delivery due to the pandemic. Because of these challenges, developers are seeking new and innovative ways to add value to their investments that will benefit the end-user.
Uncertainty in the market has increased the cost of materials and labour, reducing project profits. Fears over Brexit, a drop in housing prices, and community opposition to development have also played a role. While these conditions are not specific to residential developments, the reliance short-term profitability has made the residential sector more vulnerable to their effects.
Recent travel restrictions due to COVID-19 and slowing productivity and exports from suppliers have further reduced the availability of materials and labour, increasing demand and price. The UK housing shortage, however, ensures the sector’s survival, challenging developers to work smarter rather than harder to turn a profit.
Modular homes may offer an affordable solution to some of these challenges. They enable developers to reduce required design modification, construction time, and material and labour costs. Whole life carbon factors for modular homes are also much lower due to reduced carbon emissions throughout construction process. They are also easily deconstructed and recycled.
However, this solution is constrained due to the small number of modular home suppliers. Modular homes can also suffer overheating issues because of lightweight construction. And although they offer some flexibility, they are not suitable for all types of developments.
With the current pressures on the residential sector, there is room for more modular home suppliers in the market. With increased competition and further research and development, modular homes are a viable, sustainable, and cost-effective alternative to traditional construction methods.
Occupant Wellbeing + Comfort
COVID-19 has brought attention to health and wellness in the residential sector. The focus centres on aspects of homes that add value to the occupants. Having experienced a period of lockdown, people expect more from their home than just a place to sleep. The value of property now depends on more than just location and size, but also wellbeing factors, amenity access, community, and whether it is ‘work-from-home’ ready.
The sustainability agenda and growing global focus on wellbeing and mental health, in recent years, has had some limited influence on the residential sector. With many people now working from home, attention in this area has increased.
Simple adaptations can make a big difference. Apartment layouts will need to provide good quality workspaces. Optimising daylight, natural ventilation, and availability of green spaces or balconies are becoming essential. Amenity spaces such as gyms, car parks, and shared working areas add a sense of community, and irrespective of a development size, superfast fibre broadband is a must-have.
A Shift in Project Work
In the short term, there is a shift in focus to retrofits and renovations. Social housing developers are improving and upgrading existing sites, replacing external cladding, rather than embarking on new build opportunities. Occupant health and wellbeing continues to grow with an impetus and is likely to shape the market for the foreseeable future. Innovations increasing added value, will raise the standard of UK homes and enable future residents a greater level of comfort and flexibility to deal with any future challenges.