On Site with Sykes

Writing in the Times last month, Architect Norman Foster relates how he was asked in a BBC documentary to name his favourite building. Without hesitation, he cited the now disappearing Jumbo 747. Six storeys high at the tail, with about 3000ft2 of space, five lavatories, three kitchens and room for 367 guests, he believes the 747 is genuinely architectural both in its design and its thinking. And, what’s more, it flies!

Gallery

Christopher Sykes

is an Architect who trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. After he qualified, he worked in both London and Sweden. Having widened his writing and journalistic skills, he subsequently started his own publishing company specialising in building magazines and events. As a hobby, he used to write sitcom for the BBC.

Build, build, build

Even Nice Architects, a firm based in Bratislava, Slovakia, has just issued a vision of their affordable housing crisis solution, with their famous Ecocapsule. This autonomous off-grid, sustainable house can be an integral part of new urban planning in the soon future. It’s a ready-made product that can create horizontal skyscrapers with multi-use – as flats, offices and delivery units at the same time, powered by green energy only and contributing to the shared economy by providing extra energy for city electric network. They reckon it is a true consideration challenge for developers as an alternative to classical buildings.

These are extreme examples of the torrent of reaction from all sectors of the construction industry following the Government announcing what are reckoned to be the most radical reforms for building better homes since WWII. They recognise that COVID has created major changes to life, and this is now a priority.

This outpouring of reaction is unprecedented. For example, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is deeply concerned – not only on behalf of their industry but also on behalf of every single community. They say that if ‘build, build, build’ isn’t considered more deeply, it could be ‘fail, fail, fail’. This is why the RTPI has launched its new ‘Plan the World’. The wish is to address 21st-century issues together with long-term strategy planning to integrate economics, infrastructure and environmental priorities. Housing may be key, but priority must also be given to decarbonisation and climate resilience, design and beauty, connectivity and accessibility, wellbeing and public health, as well as economic growth.

The RIBA has also announced the shortlist for ‘Rethink: 2025’ – an international design competition for our post-pandemic world. The judging panel – made up of five design leaders and radical thinkers – have selected a shortlist of 12 proposals. They are inviting us to respond to one or more of the following areas on the future of healthcare spaces, remote learning, high-density living, public transport, high streets vs online shopping, international travel and the use of technology to monitor and control populations.

Now the National House-Building Council (NHBC) has launched their new modern methods of construction (MMC) acceptance service for the UK construction industry. Called NHBC Accepts, it is an all-inclusive end-to-end service that will help to build confidence in innovative construction and enable MMC to be fast-tracked for NHBC warranty.

The most significant ever-repeating words in all this are ‘innovation’, closely followed by ‘modern methods of construction’. Not before time, the house-building industry is being fundamentally shaken to rethink, redesign itself and recognise powerful external forces.

Finally, and rarely mentioned, are three social solutions which could dramatically help the housing crisis. Firstly, stem immigration, secondly discourage divorce, and lastly, reduce breeding – just as China did! Interesting, huh?

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