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HA magazine’s Joe Bradbury looks at the mentality we need to transition into the New Year

As 2022 draws to a close, what mentality must we adopt to achieve success as we fearlessly transition into the New Year? Housing Association Magazine's Joe Bradbury discusses:

Over the past couple of years, many of us have been beaten and battered by material and labour shortages, along with supply chain instability. Understandably, this causes many of us to be concerned about the issues that will undoubtedly occur as 2023 gets underway.

The sector adapted successfully to Covid-19's problems, which has been much less prominent this year; housing associations have embraced 'the new normal,' and are on to the next challenge… or, more accurately, challenges!

Housing associations, like all enterprises, are contending in a context of rising labour and material costs, a stiffening insurance market, and Covid-19 fallout. In addition, landlords are dealing with increased legislation about building safety. The underlying theme from these challenges is that the business model of the social landlord is getting increasingly expensive and that there are going to be some tough choices ahead.

However, never before has demand been greater!

I predict a considerable emphasis on sustainability, particularly in terms of the materials used.

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital editor of Housing Association magazine

Exciting news

This is, of course, exciting news for building professionals, but the route to success will be difficult! The worldwide housing and construction boom, which was fuelled in part by the pent-up demand created by the epidemic's early uncertain months, paradoxically intensified material shortages last year. The UK government's stay-at-home mandates resulted in increased consumer buying, selling, and hence expenditure on larger houses and home modifications as people battled to make space in their homes for both work and personal life.

While this was undoubtedly exciting for the housing business, it did present difficulties for builders attempting to secure materials, as well as many UK firms straining to satisfy demand. Due to increasingly tight supply chains, builders are still to this day frequently unable to complete projects on time. This will likely have a significant influence on the number of homes that the UK is able to construct.

So, while increasing demand is excellent, we must guarantee that all sectors of the construction industry collaborate and support one another in order to efficiently and effectively produce the built environment suited for 2023 and beyond.

Adaptability is essential

The construction industry's skills shortfall worsened this year. Existing supply issues have also been under strain by Brexit, COVID-stressed supply networks, and increased demand for housing. This has implications not only for the sector, but also for the entire country. Increased wage demands, longer project delivery dates, and an increasing number of empty positions are all evidence that the situation is deteriorating.

The long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy was finally released last year, which was a watershed moment for the construction industry. The strategy displayed a clear acknowledgement that the built environment will play a critical part in the next stage of the UK's decarbonisation drive, as the UK moves on with its target of net-zero emissions by 2050. Whilst the plan is far from perfect (it needs a national retrofit strategy and a precise plan for training and retraining employees), it does also contain much to feel pleased about, such as a defined roadmap for the transition to low-carbon heating. Now we have had a full year of implementing this strategy, it will be interesting when new figures emerge which explain the effects.

Going into the new year, there will be many troubles ahead... yet there will also be many possibilities. I personally predict that a considerable emphasis on sustainability will be made in 2023, particularly in terms of the materials used.

To accelerate the inevitable move away from carbon-heavy concrete, the building sector will need to be adaptable, eager to adopt new materials and technologies and to embrace sustainability.

Exceeding expectations

As the UK government strives to deliver an infrastructure revolution, enhance building-safety legislation, and generate momentum in addressing climate change, one of the major themes for 2023 will be the pressure placed on companies to go above and beyond fundamental needs and standards. The more responsibility we accept as an industry, the more imaginative and efficient we will be in incorporating safety and sustainability in our built environment. We must work hard to ensure that new legislation not only provides safety, but also promotes innovation and raises standards above and beyond the bare minimum. The year 2022 could be a watershed moment.

Despite the fact that 2021 was a trying year, the future appears to be demanding but bright. As an industry, we must continue to step up and raise our game. To meet the challenges ahead, we must raise the bar as an industry and guarantee that we are made up of individuals with inventive, varied, responsible, and collaborative mindsets.

Merry Christmas housing professionals… and a happy new year!

Joe Bradbury is digital editor of Housing Association magazine