High rises ‘essential’ in tackling housing crisis but report warns of challenges

A huge rise in demand for high rise buildings is posing major problems for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) experts who are regularly having to challenge building specifications to ensure that new high rises are safe, a new report has revealed.

The report, produced by water solutions company Uponor alongside M&E experts such as the SES Group, interviewed over 250 construction professionals including architects, specifiers and M&E engineers.

It revealed a widespread consensus that the UK’s current housing crisis can only be solved by a rise in the number of high rise buildings.

However, experts have expressed concerns about the lack of suitable spaces being built, putting the M&E sector under severe pressure to deliver the homes needed.

James Griffiths, Project Development Director at Uponor, said: ‘We’re all aware that the UK is currently in the middle of a housing crisis and with 110,000 additional homes required in London by 2050 alone, it seems that the only way to cater for this is to build upwards – higher, faster, smarter.

‘With this in mind, we wanted to gain insight into the challenges within the M&E sector – a vital role within the delivery of high rise buildings – to meet this demand.’

Of the construction professionals who were interviewed for the report, 85% believed that high rises will be crucial in tackling the housing crisis.

However, the experts consulted also warned of a major disconnect between overambitious planners and the supply chain actually working on buildings, leading new homes to be delayed.

Worryingly, every single M&E specialist consulted said they had felt forced to break the requested specification on buildings in order to protect performance, hygiene and reduce maintenance.

This included reverting to tried and tested products for water, lighting and electrical systems rather than the integration of new ‘smart’ technologies.

Issues such as these led three-quarters of all respondents to agree that the M&E sector will struggle to deliver the 110,000 homes needed in London by 2050.

Uponor warned that developers taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to building new high rise blocks might cause them to fail far sooner than they should.

‘A one size fits all approach cannot be applied to the design and construction of high rises; the building size, occupancy and end use, amongst other things, all must be considered before pen is put to paper, let alone before ground is broken,’ Griffiths added.

‘If the industry doesn’t take steps to change its methods of designing and building high rises, we anticipate seeing showstopping buildings’ plumbing and heating systems failing within the first 20 years.’

The report also revealed concerns about the skills gap within the M&E sector, with respondents predicting major repercussions if this problem is not fixed in the near future.

It is hoped that Uponor’s report will influence local authorities and property developers in deciding how future high rises are designed and built.

Recent reports have highlighted the difficulty in solving the UK’s housing crisis, as the British Property Federation recently explained that more warehousing space is needed to tackle the crisis.

Chris Ogden
Digital News Reporter


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