December 2011 issue

It’s the time of year when you realise, simultaneously, how much has happened, and yet how little you’ve ticked off your ‘to-do’ list! In the same way you try to clear your desk on a Friday so you hit the ground running on a Monday, Christmas always conjures up the feeling that you really should be tying up loose ends.

It’s also the time of year when high energy prices make it all the more important to ensure your insulation is as good as possible; and it’s brought home to you that it makes really good sense to install renewables! The construction industry is getting blamed for the energy use of the built environment, yet, whilst design of new properties can be controlled, their actual daily use is the deciding factor. Remember the old road safety adverts? Maybe something similar needs to be done about energy use in buildings. The ‘worn tyres can kill’ adverts were seen as slightly hectoring, but people of my generation know not to mix cross-ply with radial; simple but effective! Every new gadget seems to be energy consuming; we’re talking about energy-saving products then in the next breath discuss the latest ‘must-have’ electric toy. Bring back wooden blocks – and kids’ imaginations!

As this issue goes to press a £400m fund to build 16,000 houses has been announced. The BBC reports that developers will compete for funds, and building work on selected schemes where work has stalled could start next July. It is hoped that up to 3,200 of the proposed new properties will be affordable homes (what, four times the average salary?) and that the initiative will support up to 32,000 jobs. But concentrating on new builds, and the purchase of new builds, will do nothing for the existing stagnating property market, other than take buyers out of it. Refurbishment of below-standard existing housing stock makes far better sense – no building on fresh sites, smaller changes to established communities and neighbourhoods, and improved local facilities. The retro-fit market could be enormous, and a profitable, high-employing sector, but it needs that vat cut on refurbishment, and for older houses to be seen as a recyclable element and a fantastic resource.

Wishing you a great Christmas, and a happy & healthy 2012. Keep warm!

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Future Constructor & Architect is a specification platform for architects and building contractors, which focuses on top-end domestic and commercial developments.

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