2021 was all about net zero, the changing face of offices and the demand for industrial. Will those still be the hot topics in 2022 or will another issue dethrone them?
In an effort to find out, we polled a panel of developers, planners, architects and more to find out what they thought would dominate headlines in the new year.
Here’s what they had to say.
Joanne Roney, chief executive Manchester City Council | 2022 looks likely to be a year of extremely high demand with a real focus on flexible workspace with companies increasingly desiring additional space for recreation and leisure to meet the health and wellbeing needs of their staff. New developments will focus on delivering high quality, low/zero carbon buildings with green and blue infrastructure integrated from the initial design stage.
Phil Mayall, board director, Muse Developments | Looking forward to next year, I’d say that there’s fast approaching rapid obsolescence of Grade B office stock, and in some cases Grade A office stock that won’t meet occupiers’ demands for net zero occupation and wellbeing standards. We’ve got to make sure we’re consistently pushing boundaries when providing new stock, creating a better environment for workers, which in turn will enable organisations to attract and retain the best talent, and, of course, a more sound investment for funders.
Adam Higgins, co-founder of Capital&Centric | Gone are the days when life beyond the M25 didn’t exist. We’re seeing lots of people waking up to the cultural offer of Northern cities and they’re making the leap to relocate out of the capital – often keeping their London-based jobs but working remotely! They’re citing massive quality of life changes, whether that’s affordability, being able to walk more rather than sitting on the tube for hours or having friendly neighbours. London will obviously remain a powerhouse, but it’s amazing to see people realising the North can offer a brilliant life and – unshackled from their desks – feeling they no longer have to be in the capital to be successful in certain industries.
More from our panel: What was the biggest lesson learned in 2021?
Urban infrastructure challenges including power, green infrastructure, sustainable modes of transportation, impacting project design and site activities, will continue to dominate early project discussions and viability.
Investors will continue their ESG aspirations, embedding their requirements in a genuine and relevant way, aligned to their brands with annual reporting and KPIs. This will impact the response from the built environment to align with these aspirations,
Nigel Sedman, group director of homes at ForHousing | Zero carbon will increase in prominence in the coming year in the wake of climate change and as the deadline to reach net-zero by 2050 moves closer. At ForHousing, we recognise that collaborative working is crucial to meeting the government’s zero carbon targets and delivering lasting change that resets how we build, retrofit and look after our homes. We will continue to drive forward our plans to undertake large scale decarbonisation works to existing homes and start moving our new-build homes to a net-zero standard by 2025.
Michael Swiszczowski, director of Chapman Taylor | I think society’s strive towards net zero will continue to dominate property headlines in 2022. The crisis we are facing cannot be any clearer, so I hope 2022 is a year of action, not just words. I also believe the trends that dominate headlines will be an evolution of what we are already witnessing, a convergence of the sectors, where a hospitality-led focus influences design trends in residential, workplace, retail, and mixed-use developments. Perhaps 2022 will reveal a clearer picture of what workplaces of the future will look like, as people balance working from home with working in a more collaborative environment.
Caroline Baker, managing partner for the North West at Cushman & Wakefield | Overall I think 2022 headlines will be dominated by the same messages as 2021 – uncertainty, ESG, flexible offices and the strength of the industrial sector.
I would like to see more focus on housing. Despite lots of talk from the government over the last 10-15 years, we are still not delivering enough. As an industry we need to determine how we can support existing homes, improving their condition and energy efficiency. We need to identify how we can deliver more homes generally and we need to respond to the homelessness crisis.
Mark Vaughn, director of Hive Land & Planning | There has been a good run of government policy backing large-scale, new settlement delivery as evidenced through the changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, initiatives such as the Garden Settlement Programme and money invested through the £5.5bn Housing Infrastructure Fund.
There are now sustained signs of a political change in emphasis from government towards brownfield sites and regeneration more generally. The details of the Chancellor’s Autumn Spending Review in November are still awaited, but the headline figure of £1.8bn towards unlocking brownfield sites and regenerating underused land will be welcomed by local authorities across our region.
Leigh Dimelow, principal director of TP Bennett | There has been a lot of focus on offices to date, but I think that the residential sector will go through some of the biggest changes next year. We’re seeing a drive from local authorities towards retrofitting, the need for new types of homes for an ageing demographic, and a continuation of homeworking that changes the public’s perception of what they want from their homes. I expect to see more socially focused residential schemes coming forward with a greater onus on surrounding amenities and the re-building of micro-communities.
Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital&Centric | Undoubtedly a big growth sector throughout 2022 and beyond will be the build-to-rent sector in the suburbs. Hopefully we will see more of this in brownfield town centre locations where all of the amenities such as transport retail healthcare etc are close by.
Michael Swiszczowski, director of Chapman Taylor | I expect to see the North West build-to-rent sector continue to be a leading light for many in this maturing market. I anticipate the suburban build-to-rent model to feature in the headlines more frequently. I think we will see more co-working environments in both our towns and cities as well as more suburban areas – whether this is a commercialised component of a build-to-rent residential development or a supplementary space within urban commercial buildings to help activate the ground floor and public realm.
Stephen O’Malley, co-founding director of Civic Engineers | I think digitisation is going to dominate. The technology has been developing exponentially over the last 20 years. It’s all about integration; bringing together digital design models with financial appraisal models, society behavioural models, statutory service access models, transport models and so on. The growing sophistication of these models will overlay complex data sets and bring them into a single ‘digital twin’ that will provide real time intelligence to shape a raft of decision making. For the built environment, this could help inform district spatial masterplanning and investment strategies as well as individual building designs and informed occupier purchase and leasing choices.
Euan Kellie, director of Euan Kellie Property Solutions | There is an urgent need for local planning authorities to be given the resources they need to be able to effectively manage the significant number of applications that they have to process (and also prepare their local plans). The longer the matter is not addressed then the greater the impact it will have on the economy, investor confidence, and the morale of officers trying to manage unreasonable workloads.
Alongside this, the proposed planning reforms are also likely to dominate the property headlines – specifically the continued uncertainty regarding content, timescales and, subsequently, the potential disruption this may cause.
Katie Tonkinson, partner at Hawkins\Brown | We expect to see more headlines for the education sector next year, with universities continuing to push mixed-use boundaries and stepping out of their main business offer to keep and attract the best talent. Whether this is done through blurring the line between industry and education, or evolving learning programmes to respond to the rapid change in technological advancement, the demand for high-quality learning spaces will be strong. We also anticipate a 2022 that offers increased access to the arts with the redirection of funding away from large London institutions to smaller, grass-root organisations, along with the creation of more shared, public open spaces.
Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital&Centric | Hopefully we will see more from Liverpool city region. We made some real headway with the Littlewoods project in the past few months since they’ve had the shake-up of the city council, and I’m hopeful that this will continue and we will see some really positive progress to start to bridge vast gap in investment and growth that Liverpool has seen compared to Manchester.
Michael Dong, chief executive of Investar Property Group | Rebuilding the economy needs government intervention. Private and public sector cooperation will dominate next year – including a host of positive public sector initiatives focused around funding, the levelling up agenda and investment in core infrastructure.
Barry Roberts, managing director of Morgan Sindall Construction | 2022 will be the year we see an increasing number of projects come to market that in will advance the levelling up agenda. £232m was allotted to our region from the Levelling Up Fund in October, and the disparate geography involved means that the construction firms appointed to undertake these projects will be able to make a real contribution to the economic wellbeing of our entire region during delivery.
Simultaneously, our region’s strengths in science and technology are being reflected by increased interest from developers, with a growing recognition that the North West is the perfect location for innovation to flourish.
Adam Higgins, co-founder of Capital&Centric | There are some changes that should really mix things up a bit in 2022. One is seeing how levelling up goes from national slogan to a policy in action. Some towns like Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Bolton could really stand to gain from both narrative and intervention. I believe now is their time to reinvent how their town centres function as they depart from being retail-dominated. Levelling up, for me, would mean those town centres having high quality homes, buzzing new communities and access to diverse, well-paid jobs, replicating to an extent what the dominant cities have achieved in recent years.
Justin Cove, director of Hive Land & Planning | Housing minister Michael Gove made a welcome announcement in November, suggesting that the standard method for calculating an individual district’s housing needs is to be examined. The levelling up agenda is founded upon reducing the North-South divide, by stimulating the Northern economy, reducing social injustice and creating an environment in which communities can thrive. The standard method ignores this in the North, as it does not allow upward adjustments to be made. New housing should be hand in glove with economic development, but both are being suppressed unnecessarily. The arbitrary 35% uplift to the 20 largest urban centres simply does not address the issue.
Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.