In December 2020, I was asked by Futurebuild what innovations have changed the face of the built environment. Looking back over time the game changing products that I believe have influenced our work include:
Much has already been written about how the business world has embraced video conferencing technology during this pandemic and we’ll all no doubt have personal experience of how it has changed the way that we work. So, in many ways this is an obvious choice for a game changer, but because the impact will be so far reaching I thought it worth putting in my list.
The world was probably moving towards greater use of video conferencing anyway, but there is no doubt that lockdown measures as a result of COVID-19 rapidly increased the speed of uptake. The experience has taught us that we don’t need to travel as much as we used to. Before, we thought it was imperative that we met others face to face. It has also made the use of video conferencing more acceptable, when before it might have been perceived as a cop-out by those not prepared to make the effort to meet in person.
Sure, face to face meetings are important and I have no doubt that a degree of travel will resume within our businesses once restrictions are lifted, but I also think that video conferencing is here to stay and that many of us will end up traveling less and working from home more than we used to, which has got to be a good thing for both the environment and our own well-being.
I make no apology for listing my own company’s products here, Accoya wood and Tricoya. Even if I wasn’t involved in these products, I would have them on my list because they are such a great example of how we don’t necessarily need to compromise performance in our bid to use more sustainable products.
Photosynthesis is the best means we have of capturing carbon from the atmosphere and in the form of trees we have natural “production units” that convert it for us into a very versatile building material – wood. Using more wood in construction is vital as we aim for that carbon neutral target, yet so often specifiers choose carbon-intensive man-made materials that they have confidence in over wood because of concerns over the durability and stability of the latter.
Both Accoya (solid wood) and Tricoya (panels) are based on sustainably-grown timber which is tweaked at the molecular level by a chemical reaction called acetylation to vastly improve the performance of the wood in a non-toxic manner, thus locking in all of that sequestered carbon for decades longer than would otherwise be the case in products that are much more reliable and predictable than those made from un-acetylated wood. Both Accoya and Tricoya afford us the opportunity to significantly increase the amount of timber we use in construction without compromising on service life expectations or performance, even in challenging external applications.
LED lighting technology has been gradually developing from the early 1960s to the present day so it’s sort of crept up on us rather than taken the world by storm but in my view this doesn’t make it any less revolutionary. The current generation of LED lights offer so many advantages over the older technologies that they have now become the norm for most applications. Over time they will result in significant reductions in energy use across the world both in-use and by virtue of the fact that they last so much longer than incandescent or halogen bulbs. To cap it all they can be recycled so are a good fit with the circular economy.
For more information on other game changing products or technologies see here: https://www.futurebuild.co.uk/game-changers/