To find out about our latest insights
To find out about our latest insights
Change is constant
Yes, change is constant. But you could be forgiven for thinking that the past 12 months have seen more than their fair share. Economic, social and political shifts have seen rulebooks discarded and old assumptions cast aside. Technology too has evolved rapidly: visibly in the case of Tesla’s Gigafactory or Amazon’s drone deliveries, and more subtly in the proliferation of blockchain or advances in robotics. And of course, our climate has continued to change, both violently and quietly, but perhaps no longer surprisingly.
To help us think ahead, we asked each of our team members to share their thoughts on the trends they think will shape our work in the months ahead. Below are a few things to look out for as we navigate an increasingly uncertain, volatile and fast-changing world. If there is anything you want to share — or if you have a project or challenge you want us to help with — then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Enabling positive returns
Our understanding of ‘sustainability’ continues to expand and deepen. For built environment professionals, sustainable design now needs to incorporate circular economy principles, user health and wellbeing, planetary boundaries, systems interactions and lifecycle implications. In 2019, we will see a focus on making this complex set of ‘requirements’ easier to understand and implement, so that a new paradigm for sustainable design can emerge, which is both practical and profitable. A core focus will be the concept of regenerative design, where solutions are designed to actively heal or reverse negative externalities, while amplifying positive impacts.
In a world where change offers such vast challenges and opportunities, it is more important than ever to try and understand the forces, trends and issues likely to shape our future.”
2. Power to the people
User-centred design and the human ‘experience’ are now a standard part of our vocabulary and our portfolio of work, driven by a growing focus on health and wellbeing and a recognition of social, economic and environmental outcomes. This has also opened the door for communities to play a much more active role in the design and planning of the built environment.
Supported by the rapid proliferation of digital platforms and mobile services, communities can now help to run part of their city, determine the fate of an upcoming development, or support the delivery of city services. This trend has already seen projects cancelled, designs redrawn and new opportunities created.
In 2019, the built environment community will need to take greater note of this. We must look to mobilise citizens to better understand their needs and ensure designs are considerate of the local social context, recognising that community adoption is critical to the long-term sustainability of our work.
4. The predictably unpredictable consumer
Digital lifestyles, algorithm-controlled content, and ongoing (virtual) globalisation are creating a consumer base that is increasingly diverse and subject to radical individualism. There is no longer a one-size-fits-all or ‘standard’ individual at the local level, but instead networked clusters of people, who are grouped by interest and attitude. For a sector like retail, this means a proliferation of smaller companies that target niche consumer groups through social-media based algorithms, coupled with a diversification of shop sizes and sales channels, and move away from traditional store formats. In 2019, companies that succeed will allow consumers to build, maintain and create their own – highly personal – portfolio of brands. This extreme diversification of attitudes and behaviours makes social trends less predictable and platforms that network people more powerful. We, as a business, need to better understand niche groups and building products and services beyond a ‘one size fits all’.
5. Bridges born in fabric
Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, machine vision and robotics will continue to foster a multitude of advances in manufacturing, fabrication and construction. From robotically-welded formwork to bendable concrete, there are now hundreds of solutions that challenge our perception of how we can use, shape and apply materials and components for the design and construction of buildings and infrastructure. In 2019, our challenges as designers will be to find, recognise and apply these innovations to our work. ‘Downstream’ innovations by fabricators or contractors can make it hard for designers to see the options available, making it more likely that we will miss opportunities and choose ‘standard’ approaches over innovative alternatives. And yet, clients now expect more performance, complex shapes, less material use, no increase in waste, higher adaptability, and faster build time. Digital fabrication can enable us to deliver this, but it requires us to engage much more with the makers; the people and organisations that are reimagining how things are made.
7. End of an economy cycle, not
There has been increased international discussion on the timing and scale of the next global recession. Brexit, trade wars, and a slowdown of the Chinese economy increase the probability of a global recession. And yet, among economists, there is still no agreed set of data or indicators to understand what causes a recession. The interconnectedness of nations, markets and business makes it increasingly harder to understand and predict how one part of the system may influence another. All of this will make 2019 a year where continued political and economic uncertainty are highly likely. For our firm, this reconfirms the importance of our aims in helping us inform decisions in a world where clarity and direction are increasingly hard to come by.