The UK faces many of the same problems as developed countries across the world.
The economy is sluggish, there’s a shortage of new homes, our population is becoming older, we are less physically active causing strain on the NHS and there are too few schools, many of which are in disrepair. Similarly, the effects of climate change and extremes of weather are having a major impact on our lives and to reduce our carbon emissions and save on peoples’ energy bills we need to retrofit our homes offices, hospitals and shops at a rate of one property every minute if we are to meet out 2020 targets.
Addressing these challenges will undoubtedly be a priority for the next government. But by focusing on architecture and the built environment – that is, buildings and the places in between them – we can help to resolve these pressing issues and foster greater growth, save money to the public purse and improve the places we live, work and play in the long term.
The next government needs to set out a long-term vision, a National Spatial Strategy for places that will identify major infrastructure, large housing developments, aspirations for improving quality of life and long-term sustainability.
Improving the quality of housing is as important as increasing supply. New homes in the UK are the smallest in Western Europe; the public is dissatisfied with the quality of new homes. To increase the quality and quantity of new homes the next government needs to empower local authorities to start building again and encourage the support of the public for new development.
Health and Older People
From childhood to old-age, the built environment has an important role to play in supporting healthy lifestyles as a part of everyday living. Government and local authorities should encourage healthy lifestyles through setting out healthy infrastructure action plans and good principles for new developments to encourage active lifestyles.
We are designing schools in a way that is falling short of their potential. Schools being built under the current government programme are just too cheap. Increased maintenance costs alongside poorer results for pupils and teachers will dog our schools for years to come unless we make a small increase in the amount of schools capital funding.
Flooding, higher temperatures and drought as well as increases in the cost of food and fuel prices are widely accepted as the impacts from climate change. We need to get better at dealing with flooding through adaptation and mitigation. From simple design solutions to rethinking how we design our homes we look at the impact flooding has had on parts of England and presents policy solutions to create a more resilient nation.
Rising energy bills, and concerns over fuel poverty, energy security and climate change have necessarily focused government attention on the performance of our homes and buildings. Many of our homes, work places and public building leak energy which is both costly and damaging to the environment and present a major challenge if we are to reduce carbon emissions. The next government needs to look at measures to insulate our homes and non-domestic building to meet this challenge.
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