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Proposed New Manchester Centre - Photo Bolton Quinn - OMA

Glazing Clippings and Musings by Helen Duval – January 2017

All eyes seem to be on the building and construction sectors right now, all looking for positive indications. When it comes to Brexit, it is anticipated that Theresa May will focus on creating “common goals” in the face of a ‘hard exit’ that look to protect and enhance workers rights, but quite how this will affect the skills shortage remains to be seen.

For the housing market things have been boding well with a surge in the number of first time buyers during 2016. Although the average deposit for first-time homebuyers has doubled since 2007 and prices for the sector now surpass £200,000, in a recent report by the Halifax bank around 7.3% more buyers entered the property market last year.

Despite prices bearing up against 2016’s economic rollercoaster far better than anyone could have forecast, experts are warning that all that could now change. Whilst low-mortgages, help-to-buy schemes and good employment levels have all bolstered the property ladder at entry level, new stumbling blocks could occur that will slow this down through rapidly increasing prices. Time will quickly tell on this.

According to a recent survey, in December, UK construction boasted the fastest growth in new orders in almost a year. The downside of this is that a weaker GBP has driven up the cost of materials to a five-an-a-half year high.

For the glazing sector it looks extremely positive as it would appear that housebuilding was one of the main forces behind the growth in construction, although civil engineering projects also gathered momentum the commercial sector only increased marginally.

IHS Markit’s Tim Moore, author of the survey, commented “All three main areas of construction activity have started to recover from last summer’s soft patch, but in each case growth remains much weaker than the cyclical peaks seen in 2014.”

Meanwhile Paul Trigg, a construction specialist was equally circumspect, stating, “Business confidence across construction remains high. But the industry is yet to feel the full brunt of Brexit and there are concerns the current work pipeline will only carry contractors in the short-term.”

The use of glass in construction and architecture continues to help create some of the world’s most impressive structures. Its use over the years really distinguishes it as a material like no other that not only makes a building distinctive in appearance but which continues to have a vital involvement in the energy efficiency of buildings.

As architects and specifiers increasingly look to incorporate the use of glass in both commercial and residential projects as a symbol of wealth and grandeur, its rise in popularity as a material is increasing and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

Ambitious Designs

At more than 300 metres high, a new skyscraper is set to sit on the London skyline that will be almost as tall as The Shard. The 73-storey building was recently given planning approval and will be the second tallest building in western Europe.

Situated in London’s financial district at the address, 1 Undershaft, the building nicknamed ‘The Trellis’ will have a free public viewing gallery and it is claimed it will house London’s highest restaurant.

The Aviva Tower that currently sits on the site will be demolished and The Trellis will then begin construction with completion set for some point in the 2020s.

Further afield, AS Homes has unveiled plans for a new residential development at the former Maxwell Road gasworks in Glasgow where 140 affordable flats and houses will be built on 8.3 acres of land in the East Pollockshields suburb.

After city councillors recently gave planning permission for Manchester’s proposed new £110m arts centre, The Factory, work can finally begin to renovate the old Granada Studios site.

This is considered a breakthrough and defining moment by the city council, headed up by Sir Richard Leese who commented that it would “make Manchester and the wider region a genuine cultural counterbalance to London”.

The Rem Koolhaas designed building will be an enormous, visually striking glass cube structure which was a key project that was vigorously supported by former chancellor George Osborne, who back in 2014 pledged £78 million to its development.

Current Culture Minister, Matt Hancock, reiterated his hopes that The Factory would “blast open access to the very best world-class art and culture we have to offer in this country”, commenting further that it would “provide a further boost to the brilliant arts, culture and technology scene in the north. On top of that, it will also help local tourism, generate jobs and provide training opportunities for the next generation of British creatives”.

Those behind the project envisage that within10 years it has the potential to generate around 2,500 jobs which should add approximately £140m to the local economy.

Looking Forward

As for product innovation it appears that the conservatory sector is doing incredibly well, although according to the eagerly anticipated Palmer report, it is regeneration that will bring excellent business results for installers. With consumers seeming keen to revitalise first generation structures, as well as advancements in energy efficient glazing and new products that are set to make life easier for the installer, it will undoubtedly be a sector to watch over the coming months.

Helen Duval
(c) 2017

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