It’s that time of year when we all take stock and look towards the year ahead, making predictions and educated guesses about how the next 12 months will play out. So we got our heads together in the Koru Architects office and discussed the key trends we see for sustainable building and eco design in 2017. Here’s what topped our list, followed by our company plans for the year.
2017 green building trends
- The Biophilic Design philosophy is gaining traction and set to get more popular, as well as certifications like the WELL Building Standard. Health and wellbeing is a bigger and more integrated issue generally, and this will take bigger role on green buildings too. This contrasts with the sector’s previous focus only on emissions and energy.
- The current Conservative government doesn’t appear to be very committed to sustainability. Unfavourable policies, less grants and support for green buildings, (some concern that the recent debacle with Ireland’s badly-implemented RHI policy could make all Renewable Heat Incentives look bad and provide an excuse for cuts). This could reduce popularity of sustainable building.
- As we can’t rely on government, cities and businesses are increasingly taking more of a leadership role on climate change and circular economy. This trend is happening internationally as well.
- Oil prices are rising again, energy costs will start to bite and this will lead to greater demand for energy efficiency and green energy generation for cost-saving reasons.
- Brexit means sustainability could take a back seat on national policy, fall lower down the agenda as the government and public are quite focused on Brexit and avoiding economic recession. Also, the EU is pushing the green and circular economy a lot, so outside it there may be less drive towards it.
- In the context of Brexit and the ongoing housing crisis, we don’t expect to see much increase in certified zero carbon builds this year. That’s actually not as bad as it seems, because it’s actually better to get close to it at scale rather than achieving it in a few niche cases. It’s far better to get 50% of builds to 90% zero than 10% of builds to 100%! Zero-carbon is useful as a stretch goal to reach for, but we should be more interested in incremental improvement at scale.
- The Circular Economy will continue to gain traction in green business circles, yet the UK’s progress on this agenda risks falling behind due to lack of government support, while it looks set to accelerate in Europe.
- Public awareness of sustainable building concepts is increasing and will continue to rise. People know what zero-carbon or passivhaus means now, whereas even 1 or 2 years ago you’d have to explain it to everyone. Part of this could be because sustainability is discussed more in the press and TV shows than previously.
- In general we don’t expect much Brexit-related slow down on construction (which many have predicted), as many projects are going ahead now they have some level of certainty, whereas in the run-up to the EU referendum things were put on hold. We haven’t seen any loss of business – although we have seen contractor costs go up, which could have a knock-on effect.
- Exchange rates caused by Brexit and potentially fear of terrorism could see less people holidaying abroad and more staycations, inbound tourists and a boost for UK tourism. (Nature tourism is fastest growing segment globally).
- Renewable energy growth will continue even without government support, as signs suggest it has now reached a critical mass. In particular we will see the rise of biogas, which has huge potential for energy independence and carbon reduction, and has the great practical advantage of being able to use the existing infrastructure. Ecotricity are working on biogas made from locally grown grass (claiming it has the potential to supply an incredible 97% of the UK’s gas demand!) and Good Energy are making their biogas from organic waste.
Koru Architects goals for 2017
Those are our thoughts on the big picture. But what are we planning to do this year?
- Our company is growing: we have lots of current and new projects which means we will soon be taking on a new architectural assistant to join our small Hove-based team.
- Several projects are set to finish this year, including: Mill Lane, Portland Villas 11, Portland Villas 14, Hove Park Cafe, English Cottages, Kids Acre Farm, Carlton Hill.
- We’re very excited to be collaborating with BHESCo to produce a solar garden product – we can’t say more at this stage, but watch this space!
- We’ll also be launching a new blog series on natural materials, to introduce people to the kind of materials we work with and the benefits of using sustainable and non-toxic natural materials.
Our sister company PassivPod has big plans too, aiming to get funding, complete our developed/technical designs for each model, complete full costing, find a site for a full-sized prototype and hopefully hire a designer and a marketer / business development professional.
What do you think?
What major trends do you see impacting sustainable design and building in 2017? Tweet us your ideas at @KoruArchitects.