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Construction techniques that enable faster building popular in times of booming construction sector

Economic growth and high demand have led to constraints on production capacity (e.g. labor shortage, both quantitative and qualitative) in the construction sector in Europe. As a result, architects generally expect that production techniques that enable faster building, such as wood structure construction and prefab panel construction, will be used more in coming years. Slower techniques, such as those involving concrete, will be used far less. These are some expectations regarding the usage of construction techniques of European architects in the European Architectural Barometer Q2 2018 report. In the European Architectural Barometer USP Marketing Consultancy has asked 1,600 architects in eight European countries on their expectation regarding trends in material usage.

In the European Architectural Barometer, USP Marketing Consultancy asked architects in Europe to indicate whether they expected different construction techniques to be used more or less in the coming few years. The saldo (balance) of these answers are a good indicator of the future usage of construction techniques – a positive number indicates that there are more architects that expect the use to increase than there are those that expect a decrease in the particular construction technique. The results of this analysis are presented in the figures.

Wood structure and prefab panel construction on the rise

Architects in all countries included in the study expect that the use of wood structure construction will increase in the coming years. Wood structure construction is particularly on the rise in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, where this type of construction has the highest growth expectation of all types. The expectation is the most positive in Italy, where the vast majority of architects believe this type of construction will be used more. One possible explanation for the popularity of wood is its application in residential construction. In Poland and particularly in Spain wood structures are not expected to be used much more than in the past: in Spain the balance sits at 4%. 

Prefab panel construction is the other technique beside wood structures that appears to have a bright future – it is expected to grow the most in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Poland. Spanish architects in particular have high expectations for this production technique. Prefab panels, like wood structures, are easy to install and allow for rapid construction processes. It is therefore not surprising that these solutions are of interest to architects in a time where the construction industry is growing in all countries and the capacity to produce is limited due to labour shortages, which is expected to increase in the coming years/in the future.

Architects appear to be more divided when it comes to metal structure construction: those in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands expect a (small) increase in the use of this techniques, whereas those in France, Belgium and Germany expect virtually no change or even a decrease in usage.

Concrete-based systems expected to be used less in most countries

Concrete applications that require a significant amount of labour on-site are expected to be used far less in the coming years. This is logical, as the labour shortage in most European construction sectors means that prices for labour have gone or will go up. As such, labor-intensive techniques like brick cavity walls, concrete on the job site, and concrete block envelopes are less in demand in this type of situation.

Whole prefab concrete systems are the exception in this sense; this relatively advanced form of prefab construction has architects divided. In the Netherlands, Poland, Germany and Spain architects believe this type of construction will increase, whereas in Belgium and Italy the technique will be used less. It is possible that this is related to the general use of prefab in these countries – in the Netherlands, prefab is well-established and used extensively. In countries with a solid growth in construction like Germany, prefab solution may provide well-needed relief for the production capacity situation.