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What did we learn at London Build?

London Build 2023 was a dynamic platform that brought together industry leaders and experts to discuss the future of construction.

After attending various panels, we found light shed on key topics and in this blog we will share our takeaways, bringing the knowledge shared straight to you. Here’s what we learned at London Build 2023.

The Circular Economy in Construction

In the quest for sustainability, a recurring theme was the construction industry's pivotal role in shaping the circular economy. The appetite for reusing steel in London is evident, emphasizing the need for circular design thinking. However, challenges arise when considering what can't be designed circularly.

The longevity of housing in the UK, predicted to last 1000 years at the current rate, poses unique challenges due to the lack of refurbishment. The fundamental challenge lies in the prevalent use of RC frames and components that hinder easy disassembly. Manufacturers, by default, are reducing waste through pre-manufactured systems, which also enable designs that are easy to dismantle.

Longevity is a key consideration, urging a shift towards designing for the long term. A creative mindset is crucial to creating items that withstand the test of time, promoting reuse in different structures. The barrier to increased material reuse lies in logistical challenges, and addressing this is essential for a more circular construction industry.

Embodied carbon should take precedence over circular design in housing due to its 60-year design lifespan. The focus should be on avoiding new carbon, making recycling a secondary approach. Reusing materials and minimizing carbon footprint should be the priority focus.

Sustainable Buildings and Fire Safety

The intersection of sustainability and fire safety presented both challenges and opportunities. Manufacturers must take responsibility for clarity on sustainability and fire safety. Regulation 7, prohibiting the use of sustainable materials, poses a dilemma, especially when combustible materials are necessary for meeting regulations like part L.

Questions arose about the prescriptiveness of regulations, and the need for tests reflecting real scenarios was emphasized. Retrofitting existing buildings introduces fire risks, especially in older structures lacking the necessary features for modern safety standards. This said, in the wake of tragedies like Grenfell, our industry should never consider trading off safety for profit margins, nor should we make safety a secondary concern – it should always be the first and foremost concern for our end users.

Fire Risk Assessments

Discussions on fire risk assessments underscored the importance of understanding building materials. Trust in landlords, exchanging information, and a move towards outcome-based methods were highlighted. Panellists expressed concerns about silo working, delving into unified behaviours within the fire industry.

The necessity for a common language in fire safety discussions was stressed, with a call for a ground-up approach in existing buildings. Sustainability and fire safety should not be considered separately. Challenges include a lack of understanding of risks in green technology handovers and insufficient checks on fire safety credentials.

Manufacturers were urged to take responsibility for both fire and sustainability, with financial penalties mentioned as a means of enforcement. Concerns about misleading information, challenges with existing buildings, and the need for improved regulations were stressed. The shift should be towards actively improving existing buildings rather than merely avoiding degradation.

London Build 2023 provided invaluable insights into the construction industry's trajectory towards sustainability and safety. Embracing circular design principles, addressing challenges in sustainable buildings, and redefining fire safety practices are pivotal steps towards a future where construction is not only robust but also environmentally responsible. Our journey continues, committed to implementing these learnings for a more sustainable and secure built environment.

To learn more about the future of residential construction - Resibuild Events is your first stop. Visit the rest of our website and sign up to all of our future events.

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