If we have the ability, we have a responsibility

  • Industry Viewpoint

It feels like the construction industry is in the middle of a perfect storm of skills shortages, changes in regulations, increasing costs, increased scrutiny and complexity and a lack of decision making from Government.

The Building Safety Act and the new Building Safety Regulator are forcing alterations in all aspects of project management and delivery and slowing down procurement and approvals. But change is necessary.


With change comes the opportunity to take a look at the ways we have been designing and constructing buildings and ask questions. This in turn will naturally lead to the development of innovative new solutions.

Some innovations are borne of frustration – nothing exists so I’ll have to create something to solve my problem. Some are borne by accident and others and borne by a deep rooted sense that there is a better way of doing things. The bottom line is it doesn’t matter how an idea develops as long as the industry continues to drive forward in an everlasting desire to create a better built environment.

Whilst a lot of the pressure of innovation sits with manufacturers, there is a role for the rest of the supply chain. Architects and designers, contractors and consultants all need to have dialogue with manufacturers. Developing innovations is a shared responsibility. I am a firm believer that if you have the ability, you have the responsibility – if you face a problem that needs solving you work with your supply chain to solve it.

We all have it in us to play a part in problem solving and innovating. As I have said, the UK is a nation of problem solvers. We have a proud heritage of driving innovation, creating solutions and pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved.

We often talk about a sector that is traditional and slow in changing its ways, but when it comes to design, construction and engineering, the UK is admired the world over. The buildings we’re creating are getting increasingly complex so there is no shortage of problems to solve. We also have ever increasing regulations and guidance when it comes to performance, whether that is thermal, fire or acoustic.

Innovations will come in all shapes and sizes. Technology will play its role in creating solutions such as low energy heating and cooling and other building comforts. Biobased materials will help us address embodied carbon. But there is still a space for core components – materials that we have been using for decades – to innovate, to look at how they can improve their performance.


The cement, concrete and aggregates industry is one sector that is making great strides in terms of decarbonisation. Manufacturers such as Aggregate Industries, Heidelberg, LKAB Minerals and O’Reilly Precast were all present at Futurebuild 2024, demonstrating the strides they are making in terms of developing sustainable products and commitment to circular economy with a view on new zero targets.

Net Zero is the big challenge we are all facing. Whilst the 2050 target seems unachievable, we have the skills and the materials to create zero carbon buildings. However, like many things, it’s easier said than done and it all too often comes down to cost and a willingness to try new things. Retrofit, by its very nature, represents the elephant in the room in terms of a herculean challenge. However, the National Retrofit Conference that took place alongside Futurebuild this year is a step in the right direction. We need the industry to come to together and work as one if we are to provide a commercially viable roadmap for decarbonisation of the UK’s existing buildings.


Whether it is new build or refurb, we need to find smarter ways to deliver or improve our buildings and this is where product innovation comes in. We need to find new products and systems that allow us to build better buildings, more efficiently, more sustainably and more cheaply – all whilst increasing performance and not reducing it. We need solutions and initiatives that let us improve buildings at scale with one question being should this be whole house or incremental improvements.

Futurebuild conducted research as part of a debate entitled ‘The Role of Specification in Meeting Net Zero’. The survey identified that most respondents (61.5%) believed ‘resistance to switch from traditional technologies,’ was the main barrier to developing smarter, cleaner working practices.

Innovations to help us create low energy, sustainable buildings exist, but there are barriers. There are often more reasons to say no that to say yes – too complicated, too costly, untried and tested. No longer can we say ‘we’ve always done it this way’. We need to embrace change and all think about how can we as an industry do things better. We need to change our culture, our way of thinking and stop creating barriers.

So how do we drive innovation? The panel at the Futurebuild debate for me summed it up nicely. They all agreed that better engagement between manufacturers, architects and specifiers was key to innovating products.

This is surely music to every manufacturer’s ears – architects and specifiers that want to engage with manufacturers. So, let’s not talk about barriers, let’s talk about opportunities and collaboration and get back to what we do best – problem solving and innovating.

If you’d like to speak to David to see how his superb construction and built environment knowledge can benefit your business, get in touch by clicking the button below.

Author: David Ing

Managing Director

Contact David Ing