Sir John Armitt considers the parallels with infrastructure
Bringing the perspective of an infrastructure expert, Sir John Armitt noted that while the organization he chairs doesn’t directly cover social housing, or healthcare, there are common challenges for infrastructure and these critical fields.
Chiefly, the need for direction from central government. In the case of nationwide infrastructure, this is clear, when projects like HS2 are cancelled.
For housing, according to John Armitt, the key is the planning system itself. He cited the 2007 decision to introduce zero-carbon homes. “The industry reacted,” he said. “Then in 2010 the government pulled the plug.
“While the government are there to listen to the public, and make tough choices, we need a stable policy and regulatory environment.”
This allows the country to unlock growth in the national economy – which also needs a delicate mix of commercial and residential space.
“Beyond safety and regulations,” he said. “Planning is where the state interacts with the housing and planning sector.
“It is fair for the sector to make the case for less policy churn, more clarity, and a steady pipeline of public works – both sides playing their part achieves the legacy of value.”
Katy Dowding looks to the future
President and CEO of Skansa, Katy Dowding, asked the crowd a question: “Why, indeed, worry about the future?”
While the industry wrestles with the challenges of net zero, the planning system, and creating the housing that the country needs, Dowding points to safety.
In particular, the huge changes and strides that have happened in safety during Dowding’s time in the industry. Reflecting on how the change would not have come without innovation, she said, “…if we don’t find new ways or working, or navigating our planning system, how will we create the housing that we need?”
Stressing the need to innovate and embrace new ideas, she said, “If we could have guaranteed the outcomes of the health and safety drive, it wouldn’t have taken thirty years to get to where we are now.”
In addition, Dowding invited the crowd to consider the technologies emerging today and their potential impacts on the future of construction, saying, “If we start to think about the changes we need to make today, we can survive and thrive in the future.
“Technology and innovation can eliminate accidents, and technologies like AI and blockchain can revolutionise planning and design. If we start to think about the changes that we need to make today, we can survive – and thrive – in the future.”
The Building the Future Conference
Building The Future Conference was held in Church House, London, and organised by Building Magazine, alongside whom LABC Warranty produced our whitepaper into the potential impacts of 15-year warranties on the UK’s housing sector.