Wood structure and prefab panel construction expected to increase

Every 2 years, USP Marketing Consultancy conducts the future material usage research in the European architectural barometer. In this research, we investigate the expectancies of architects towards future material usage and construction techniques. We have finished the most recent edition and I wanted to share some interesting outcomes with you.

Every 2 years, USP Marketing Consultancy conducts the future material usage research in the European architectural barometer. In this research, we investigate the expectancies of architects towards future material usage and construction techniques. We have finished the most recent edition and I wanted to share some interesting outcomes with you.

When looking at the development of the construction industry in general, a growth of 2-3% is predicted in the upcoming years for Europe. In some individual European countries like the Netherlands, it’s almost double that. Which such a high demand and constraints on the production side (labor shortage, both quantitative and qualitative) one would expect an increase in construction techniques that enable a faster building process. When asked, the architects confirm this to a large degree with their expectancies towards construction techniques to be used more in the future. In all countries an increase is expected for wood structure construction, although the increase is minimal in Spain and Poland. Prefab panel construction is also expected to increase in all countries, with the highest increase in the UK and Spain.

The image becomes more mixed when looking at metal structure and concrete prefab systems. Although the general expectancy is that the usage will increase, architects in some countries expect a decrease. This is especially the case in Belgium.

Construction techniques that are expected not to be used more often in the future are concrete on the jobsite and concrete block envelopes. These construction techniques require more labor on the jobsite and with the labor shortages at contractors, it’s clear that architects expect that these techniques will be used less. This fits in the general tendency for more light side building.

This doesn’t necessarily means that the volumes will decrease rapidly. The market as a whole is increasing and I would expect that the volume of concrete being applied will not decrease drastically in the upcoming years (neither would I expect to see a big increase). I do expect to see the volumes of wood and metal increasing in the upcoming years, as will the share of penalized systems. Obviously, this is very dependent on which segment your looking at (single vs multifamily housing,  offices, hotels, build to rent etc).

Even though architects expect that prefab panel construction will increase, whole concrete prefab systems (3D or modular prefab) is not expected to increase drastically (although an increase can be expected in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland). To my opinion, this is not strange. When it comes to full prefab systems, transportation still is a big issue, as is a limited design freedom (although increasing). Furthermore, it’s not necessarily cheaper, although it is faster. Finally, in some countries regulations are having a dampening effect. I think the biggest growth will be in the panelized system or 2D prefab market, which suffers less from these barriers.

As mentioned, we have also asked the architects about their expectancies about future material usage. The following products groups have been measured:

  • Installation and climate control
  • Façade products
  • Bathroom products
  • Insulation products
  • Finishing materials
  • Pitched roof products
  • Flat roof products
  • Flooring products
  • Metals

In my next post I will focus more on the trends in material usage, but to already provide a sneak preview, we clearly see in the UK a strong trend is visible towards more natural insulation materials and mineral wools. PUR/PIR and polystyrene foams are expected to be used much less. The effects of the Grenfell tower fire are clearly visible. I will elaborate on this in my next post.