Tenacious trends and their effects on materials in the construction sector
The ways and materials used to construct buildings are ever in flux and influenced by circumstances. The broader focus on climate change and pollution, for instance, leads to a quest for more sustainable ways of construction, which in turn leads to a growing demand for more sustainable construction materials. Similarly, a growing (skilled) labour shortage, and the demand to build faster, cheaper, more efficient and less wastefully, has lead to the rise of prefab, a trend that is now well established and ever growing in the construction sector. An insight into the future development of these trends, as well as their interplay, comes to light in the results of the Q2 2020 European Architectural Barometer, for which USP asked architects from eight major European markets to what extent they expect to use materials and techniques in the coming five years.
European Architectural Barometer Q2 2020 - USP Marketing Consultancy
Timber is on the rise
The above image clearly shows that European architects expect a significant rise in the share of timber structures used in their projects. This expectation can easily be explained in the context of the sustainability trend. Timber is considered to be sustainable, because before its second life as a construction material, it has spent several years absorbing CO2 as a growing tree. On top of that it is an easily renewable resource, and a material that can be repurposed without too much of an impact on the environment, fitting the image of a sustainable and circular construction industry.
Of course, timber has its material limitations too, which is for instance shown by the lack of high-rise buildings made out of timber. Be that as it may, the trend towards timber usage has led to innovative construction methods that counter that limitation. A good example is the HoHo tower, a 84-meter, 24-storey high building in Vienna, which is now the world’s tallest timber building. Around 76% was constructed from timber, and the construction mainly involved using prefabricated elements, making it an excellent example of the combined trends of sustainability and prefabrication.
What about concrete?
Also apparent in the above graph is that European architects expect the share of several construction techniques to decline, all of which involve concrete or its core element cement. Again, the quest for sustainable construction offers an explanation. Opposite to timber, the production of cement and concrete comes with vast CO2 emissions. Additionally, although cement and concrete can be repurposed, the process to make it reusable needs a lot of energy resulting in even more emissions. This has caused a rather negative image of concrete in the context of sustainability.
This does not mean that the absolute usage of concrete is on the decline though. The above shows that the relative share of concrete is expected to decline, but since construction volumes are still growing, the absolute volume of concrete used is still growing as well. On top of that, there is the influence of the prefabrication trend. As stands out in the results, a majority of architects expect the use of whole prefab concrete systems to increase in the coming five years.
About the Q2 2020 European Architectural Barometer
With the theme ‘material trends’, the Q2 2020 report of the European Architectural Barometer focuses on more than just concrete and timber. In fact, USP asked architects from eight European countries whether they expect to use particular materials in several product groups more or less in their projects in the coming five years. Additionally, like every European Architectural Barometer, the report contains insights in trends and forecasts of construction volumes in eight major European markets.
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