Category Archives: Construction

How much living space do we really need?

Mini Living Urban Cabin

As part of the London Design Week, a collaboration between the car brand Mini and architect Sam Jacob attempts to answer the question of how much living space we really need with the MINI LIVING Urban Cabin.

MINI created the Urban Cabin as part of its ongoing MINI Living project, which is exploring new forms of urban living.   Designed for a future when homes become a shared resource and with modern city living in mind, the Urban Cabin demonstrates how to maximise your living space on a small urban footprint, applying creativity and innovation to a limited space.   Although limitation can have a negative connotation when it forces us to do without the things we believe we need, the MINI LIVING Urban Cabin offsets this by showing that it is simply a matter of creatively exploring possibilities.

Mini Living Urban Cabin

At just 15 sqm, the Urban Cabin is a compact micro-house demonstrating clever alternatives to space-saving. Externally, the design is inspired by London’s rich history of geometric facades, emulating the surrounding architecture by reflecting them back with mirrored surfaces

Inside the imaginative space is a homage to British eccentricity and houses an innovative blend of areas for social gatherings alongside space to take stock and have moments of calm and privacy.

Mini Living Urban Cabin

Equipped with a shared kitchen and micro-library, the miniature space is intended to foster communal exchanges.  The kitchen for example has been created with London’s food markets in mind, aiming to bring their culture and diversity into the home, whilst the micro-library suggests the importance of preserving public spaces for people to read.

Mini Living Urban Cabin

White materials are predominantly used to create a light and airy feel, combined with modern touches.  And the whole space has been designed with versatility in mind, for example the table can spontaneously be moved outside to take advantage of warmer weather.

Mini Living Urban Cabin

Mini Living Urban Cabin

The Urban Cabin is the latest in a series of structures that MINI has built as part of MINI Living. The first was an installation at Milan design week in 2016, which also explored the idea of shared living spaces.

Designing Homes for Multigenerational Living

Multigenerational living trend

Nearly 7% of UK households are multigenerational, the equivalent of 1.8 million households, and yet in the UK this concept is not well-understood and there has been little development of new home designs to suit the needs of families that would like to live in a multigenerational household.

Households are defined as multigenerational where there are three or more generations of the same family living together, or two generations of the same family living together, consisting of parents and one or more adult children (over the age of 25), or two generations of the same family living together consisting of one or more adult children (typically middle aged) and their elderly parent(s)

New research by The NHBC Foundation identifies a growing trend towards multigenerational living.  Their report, Multigenerational Living, An Opportunity for House Builders?,  analyses the scale and types of multigenerational households currently found in the UK and explores the experiences of British families living in this way.

Multigenerational living was also discussed with a range of house builders to understand their perspective on this market, in terms of their perception of both opportunity and risk.

The research provides evidence that challenges some myths about multigenerational living in the UK and suggests that it is not just ethnic minority families who choose to live in multigenerational households,  it is not just a response to care needs or housing affordability problems and it is not just about living in properties with annexes.

Key Findings

  • The number of multigenerational households in the UK has been increasing, driven by greater numbers of adult children (aged 25 or over) living in the parental home.
  • Four out of five multigenerational households in the UK are White British, although some ethnic groups (predominantly Asian families) are more likely than White British people to live in multigenerational households.
  • Multigenerational households tend not to be large and typically much smaller than often portrayed. Approximately one-quarter of households with grandparent(s) present contain three people, just over 20% contain four people and a similar proportion contain five people. Two-adult-generation households are generally smaller and are most likely to comprise just three people.  Average-sized homes with little or no modification may therefore provide satisfactory accommodation for many multigenerational households
  • Multigenerational households are most likely to live in three- or four-bedroom homes that they own, and the households, in general, are not living in poverty.
  • Multigenerational households predominantly live in ‘standard’ properties, and not all have annexes or extensions to accommodate household members separately

Requirements for Multigenerational Living

The research showed that, in terms of the design and use of space in the home, privacy is important but so is the ability to flexibly use any ‘additional’ space.  The best model included some shared spaces, open-plan dining and
an element of private space. For example, there needs to be space for interaction, such as family meals, but some privacy, such as separate rooms to entertain guests or watch television.

A limited number of bathrooms can cause tensions if everyone needs to be ready at the same time of day, so en-suites or multiple bathrooms were welcomed.

The flexibility to adapt properties over time to suit different family arrangements was welcomed. Such future-proofing might, for example, enable easy adaptation of a downstairs room (with access to a WC) into a bedroom.

Adaping New-Build House Designs for Multigenerational Households

A design review by The NHBC Foundation identified various existing common new-build house designs that are suitable for multigenerational households, or which could easily be adapted to be so.

  1. Suitable without change
    These are typically designs in which one or two bedrooms and a bathroom form a relatively separate suite of rooms on its own floor (typically the top floor of a three-storey house). These house types offer the possibility of immediate use of this suite of rooms, either by an elderly relative or by adult children, without any alteration or conversion of the existing plan.
  2. Adjustment of existing plan layout
    The second type of newbuild design identified by the review comprises houses in which the original plan offers a particularly large double bedroom, usually with an ensuite bathroom, often located above a double garage or a ground floor wing. In these cases the layout can often be changed to provide a self-contained space with a living room, double bedroom and ensuite bathroom, plus the option of a kitchenette.
  3. Opportunity to extend
    These are houses which offer the opportunity to provide a separate self-contained extension to the original house. Such homes might be marketed either with planning consent and designed to comply with Building Regulations, leaving the purchaser to engage a contactor to carry out the work, or as an ‘off plan’ option in which the house builder would complete the extension as part of the main work.
  4. Ground-floor alteration
    Where the existing ground-floor plan has a large bedroom or family room, this may be suitable for conversion into a self-contained living area with its own entrance.

NHBC Foundation Multigenerational Living

The full report from The NHBC Foundation can be downloaded here >>

Source:  The NHBC Foundation “Multigenerational Living, An Opportunity for UK house builders” Report


Preferential Report Rates for Construct UK members


We are pleased to announce our collaboration with Construct UK and we are offering all members of the Construct UK website a 10% discount on our consumer insight reports.

First established in 2002 by former Building Centre director, Darren Jarvis, Construct UK was created to provide the UK construction marketing community with fast access to an independent and extensive resource of construction-specific sales, media and marketing information.  Today their clients include businesses and trade organisations from across the world and their comprehensive online directory of information is specifically compiled to support the sales and marketing activities of all organisations operating in the construction industry.

View the Construct UK press release here



The trend to ‘improve not move’ continues


More home owners in the UK are put off moving due to rising prices and the cost of stamp duty and are opting to improve or extend their property instead, new research suggests.

Some 63% of home owners believe that there is more value in home improvement than in moving, according to a survey by YouGov for property maintenance experts Bold & Reeves.

The survey report suggests that rising house prices have driven a spike in charges which has in turn pushed up estate agency, stamp duty and conveyancing fees and more than twice as many people, 44%, would now rather invest in home maintenance on their existing property with just 17% saying they would buy something new.

But home owners are cautious about the amount they spend. Since the slowdown in the housing market only 28% are investing more into their property and 49% are spending the same amount on home maintenance compared to what they spent five years ago, the research also shows.

And it found that the most cited impediment is the lack of available funds with 47% saying this has prevented them carrying our improvements while 26% said that not being able to trust contractors held them back.

Bill Shipton of Bold & Reeves believes that although 23% consider maintaining and servicing a property regularly to be the best way to increase the value of a property, not enough people are doing so.

He also pointed out that when they buy they want a home that has been properly maintained with 88% saying this is important, but when it comes to selling they do not always make sure their home is in top tip condition.

Alistair Nicholson, a partner at real estate firm Knight Frank, said that a property that is well serviced and maintained will give buyers more confidence in the product, make the property more presentable and ultimately easier to sell.

While figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that alterations and improvements account for 14% of total housing costs, the amount spent on maintenance and repair costs have decreased year on year and take up a much lower share of spending at only 5%, an average of £7.60 per week.

Around one in three people, some 31%, wait a week or more before they fix something and Shipton said this suggests an apathetic approach that some people have to repair and maintenance.

‘Some households are still not investing enough in the upkeep of their home, posing a potential risk to their personal investment and even the wider housing stock. People continue to service their cars regularly, whilst neglecting the more significant investment of their homes,’ he added

Source: PropertyWire

Building Places That Work for Everyone

Building places that work for everyong

This report by the UK Green Building Council gives an insights into key Government priorities for the built environment and how the construction industry can address the challenges these priorities raise.

Under Theresa May’s leadership, the current Conservative Government has set out its vision of a country, an economy and a society that works for everyone. Achieving this vision requires the Government to address some of the fundamental challenges facing British people today.

  • The urgent need to build new homes and thriving communities
  • To reduce energy bills for those that are just about managing
  • Improved health and wellbeing to reduce the burden on the NHS
  • For jobs to be created, skills to be developed, and productivity to be boosted in a post-Brexit Britain

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) and its multitude of diverse and progressive member businesses believe that the built environment is fundamental to addressing these challenges, indicating that building places that work for everyone can and will support the Government’s policy priorities.

Download the report here



Woman twice as likely to take charge of building projects

Women in construction

When it comes to making vital decisions regarding building work, women are twice as likely to have the final say on the style and scope of the project.

New research by the Federation of Master Builders  also asked female home owners if they have ever carried out a range of basic DIY tasks around the home and the results were as follows:

• Almost 80 percent have painted a room;
• 65 percent have put together flat-pack furniture;
• 58 percent have unblocked a sink;
• Over 50 percent have changed a fuse;
• 44 percent have unblocked a toilet;
• Over a quarter have cleared the guttering.

Jenny Carter, mum of one from North West London, said:

“I’m happy to hire a builder for the big jobs but it would cost me a fortune if I had to pay a tradesperson every time I needed to change a fuse. If I’m a bit unsure, I tend to search online for “how-to” videos to help guide me through the process – these videos give people like me a bit more confidence to tackle the smaller jobs. Every family is different but in our house, when it comes to these sorts of tasks, I’m easily as handy as my other half.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said:

This research shows that any lingering gender stereotypes regarding domestic life are totally outdated. Not only do women lead on decisions regarding the style and scope of building projects, they also get stuck in themselves when hiring a builder isn’t necessary. In 21st century Britain, you’re just as likely to find a woman up a ladder clearing out the guttering or battling with flat-pack furniture, as you might be likely to find her performing some of the more traditional domestic chores.”

Berry also added  “On a more serious note, the construction industry is facing a massive skills shortage and we’re crying out for more female builders. At present, only 2% of construction workers onsite are female and until we start to appeal to 50% of the population, we won’t be able to plug the skills gap. It is my hope that these hands-on women, many of whom will be mums, are inspiring their daughters to think differently about what is an acceptable career path for girls. There is no reason why young women can’t become the next generation of brickies and sparks and it’s our job to remind them of that.”


Source: Federation of Master Builders


A Vision of the Eco-Future

A vision of the eco-future

This year at EcoBuild,  the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) installed an interactive voting system to get people thinking about the flip-side of sustainability.

It’s all too easy to lose people when talking about ‘2 degrees of warming’, or ‘400 parts per million of carbon dioxide’, and UK-GBC wanted to change the messaging around climate change to explain how taking positive action today could lead to a better future for us all.

To do this they did some futures thinking – which involves imagining future scenarios and then working back to understand what enabling conditions are required from the present day onwards – to come up with five ‘good news’ headlines for 2050. Each of the headlines relates to one of UK-GBC’s core values, which they will be focusing on over the next 10 years as they work towards their vision of a more sustainable built environment.

UK-GCB voting for the future


What is your vision of 2050?

The following imagined news stories are placed in order of the votes received by Ecobuild attendees:

1st Place: “UK homeless population drops to all-time low”

For the first time in history, people can afford to live wherever they choose. Investment in local and national transport infrastructure, alongside widespread business uptake of remote working technology and local ‘tech hubs’ and of course the government’s commitment in recent years to high-quality house building across the country, mean that we have all but eradicated the historic phenomenon of rough sleeping.

2nd Place: “Record extreme weather event tests new resilient homes – no reported casualties”

Thanks to the climate change adaptation measures implemented over the last 30 years, UK homes are now able to withstand flooding and storms that historically devastated the country. The images of the 2010s where people were driven out of their homes seem barely believable when the technology to provide resilient homes already existed. This latest storm passed over the UK, barely registering, except for slightly higher viewing figures for the 46th final of Strictly Come Dancing.

3rd Place: “Cycling to work now healthiest way to travel”

Back in the 2010s, rising air pollution levels in cities meant travelling by bike actually did more harm than good to the health of cyclists. But today, data released by urban air pollution watchdog, WaftWatch, shows that pollution levels are at an all-time low – thanks to the shift to electric vehicles and the introduction of cleantech for domestic heating and industrial processes. This, combined with zero-crash-risk, self-driving cars means that now the only risk cycling has on your health is the chafing of lycra on your inner thigh.

4th Place: “Pollinator populations reach highest levels since 1950”

This year we have at last seen numbers of bees and other pollinators return to the levels they were at in the 1950s, before they were decimated in the latter half of last century and early part of this one. The national ‘bee-have yourself’ campaign of the 2020s, which saw families across the country planting wildflower seeds in their gardens, together with the urban ‘bee superhighways’, mandated in the 2030s which delivered retrofitted green corridors to link together all green spaces within cities, have made the country pollinator friendly once more. The knock-on effect is a move away from the sky-high pricing of manually pollinated food stuffs which we saw in the early 2030s.

5th Place: “New London rises. Brand new city built from 100% recycled materials from Old London city”

In what is now a global experiment of epic proportions, London has been entirely rebuilt using its own existing and reclaimed materials. The ‘Circular City’ is now reborn as an international example of salvaging materials. The UK has always been a world leader in recycling, but has now made the ultimate commitment to reuse, recycle and repurpose. The Mayor of London said “In the Victorian age, London was the first international city and now the story has come full circle”.

So what does this tell UK-GBC?

While these examples might seem far-fetched, their futures thinking shows that changes of this magnitude, or similar, could be achieved and what the poll results reveal could be key to achieving them.

Homelessness and casualties from extreme weather events were the run-away poll winners, and that isn’t surprising, given that they are tragedies we see daily, both in our own lives and in the media. We tend to focus on the issues that are more human and relatable rather than the far-reaching issues for humanity.

But what would happen to humanity if the bees all died out? What would happen if we used up the worlds resources? Famine, war, mass loss of life are the startling realities.

As an industry, it is key to remember that people will always prioritise issues that impact them directly and it is vital to find a way to communicate the case for a more sustainable built environment in a relatable way.

Source: UK-GBC


Spotted at The Surface Design Show 2017

Surface Design Show 2017

TREND-MONITOR went trend-spotting at The Surface Design Show which was held at The Business Design Centre, London on 7th – 9th February 2017.

The Surface Design Show exhibits the latest materials in architecture and interior design and for the past 10 years has been the only event in the UK focusing solely on interior and exterior surfaces – connecting architects, designers and suppliers to innovative surface design trends and materials.

Here’s what we spotted …


RIBA House of the Year 2016

RIBA House of the Year

The winner of the 2016 RIBA House of the Year award is Murphy House in Edinburgh, designed by Richard Murphy Architects

Murphy House

This is Richard Murphy’s own house in Edinburgh, which he describes as ‘a quarter Soane, a quarter Scarpa, a quarter eco-house and a quarter Wallace and Gromit‘ .  Revealed in the final episode of a special series of Grand Designs, presenter Kevin McCloud and the judging panel were impressed with the intricate mechanisms of the house which stood ‘like a futuristic bookend‘ surrounded by 18th-century houses.


Build on a plot of only 36ft by 20ft, the 1,800sq ft house is on eight levels and is a triumph of space over size, packed with gadgets including automatic shutters, a bedroom with a hidden bath, walls that fold out and a bookcase with secret window panel.

Murphy House

Taking direct references from the neighbouring Georgian terraces, and with a clever change of scale, it is both deferential and powerfully striking in the street.  It is also a house that responds to the Scottish climate, opening up to the summer sun and then shutting itself down to create a snug retreat during winter, all the time with a wit and style that Murphy has honed over the years

The RIBA House of the Year is awarded to the best new house designed by an architect in the UK. The award, sponsored by Hiscox Home Insurance and Paint & Paper Library, replaces the previous title ‘RIBA Manser Medal’ which was created in 2001 to celebrate excellence in housing design.

Source: RIBA


The UK Timber Construction Market Reaches New Heights

As the world’s oldest construction material, timber is enjoying something of a renaissance as architects battle it out to design the world’s tallest timber building.

Where previously, the height of a timber building was limited to 7 storeys high due to the risk of fire, new construction methods involving the use of cross laminated timber (CLT) have changed this.  CLT is very solid and claims to be as good at resisting fire as concrete.  Although concrete doesn’t burn, it can collapse at high temperatures, whereas CLT burns more slowly and the first flame does not appear until 400°C.

Now a 10-storey residential building is currently being constructed in Hackney, which will be the tallest of its kind in the UK and similar developments are being proposed across the world as the boundaries on timber construction are being pushed to achieve ever taller buildings.

Baobab Development Paris
The Baobab Development Paris. Illustration: Michael Green Architecture

A 35-storey timber-supported tower has been designed by Vancouver architect Michael Green as part of a six-tower development in Paris called Baobab.  The building will be over three times taller than the world’s current tallest timber building, the ten-storey Forté Apartments in Melbourne.

Other 30-storey-plus wooden towers are planned in Stockholm, Vancouver and Vienna.

And it’s not just these new heights which are creating a renewed interest in timber construction.  The health aspects and environmental credentials of living a wood home are very appealing, plus it’s thermal efficiencies and acoustic qualities, low running costs and versatility of texture and finish have all positioned wood as the construction material of choice for many prominent architects across the world.

Strong Sales Growth in the Timber Frame Market

In the UK, although in Scotland timber frames are used in 70% of new-build homes, until recently bricks and masonry products were the main choice for developers in England and Wales, leaving timber with just 15-20% market share.

However in the past couple of years, timber has started to grow in popularity and is being used in an increasing number of developments.  It’s use is predicted to rise, with sales enquiries up by 40-50% on two years ago, according to Alex Goodfellow, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

A recent report into the UK timber frame market by MTW Research highlighted a profit growth of 0.5% in 2014, with double digit sales growth over the past 2 years, and a forecasted sales growth of 20% by 2019.

As the country comes out of recession and housing demand is high, timber meets the challenge for a fast, sustainable, cost-effective build.  The factory conditions used in the offsite manufacturing of timber frames ensures a better quality finish, there is less onsite activity and construction waste, plus a reduced risk of accidents.

As a naturally low carbon product, building with timber can achieve economic growth without the huge increases in emissions and energy demand that brick or steel production incurs.   This has led the UK’s wood promotor, Wood for Good, to campaign for a new rule in planning guidance requiring “wood to be considered as the primary construction material in all publicly funded newbuild and refurbishment projects”

Source:  Housing Magazine