NEWS Practice

Looking ahead: 21 insights for 2021

As we leave behind a year whose headlines have been dominated by the pandemic, we’ve turned our thoughts to the future, and an industry that continues to innovate.

Change marches on in the built environment, and positive change continues to be the key for issues of sustainability and technology. The Government’s new Energy White Paper, for example, sets out how the UK will clean up its energy systems and reach Net Zero emissions by 2050. The impact on the industry promises to be far reaching.

We asked our people, across the business, to look at the year ahead; examining the built environment, technological innovations and personal milestones in order to share their views about what 2021 might hold for our clients, colleagues and the wider industry. Over to them…

The Built Environment

Security and safety of Smart Technology.
Procurement of smart Internet of Things (IoT) based systems and devices needs to be coordinated across all industry disciplines, not just security systems. Smart buildings and cities are only as secure as the most vulnerable device, this could be a BMS sensor or smart light fitting. With a fragmented procurement supply chain, an audit process to assess the vulnerability of products and devices, proposed by design teams and contractors, will be developed by Hilson Moran; but we should call for an industry wide standard to be adopted. Jason Shaw, Associate Security Consultant.

NABERS UK pioneers. Excited that 1 Broadgate is a pioneering project for the new NABERS UK DFP energy assessment. I am very much looking forward to the outcome – particularly how the predictions play out in reality. Duncan Woods, Project Director.

Flexible and modular. Flexible and modular construction is needed, at all scales, to manage uncertainty and support long term investment after the pandemic and through an economic recovery. Marie-Louise Schembri, Design Director.

Responsibility for the future. Climate change is real and is having a profound effect on the built environment. Our influence on the creation and design of the built environment to mitigate this scenario is equally profound and will have a lasting effect for many years to come. We share a great responsibility with our fellow citizens to get it right as failure is not an option! John Deasy, Business Development and Marketing Director.

Designing for biodiversity. The implementation of the Environment Bill, and requirement for schemes to deliver a biodiversity net gain, will hopefully continue to shift the design focus towards integrating more functional habitats into the urban environment and enabling the environmental and social wellbeing benefits to infiltrate further into our cities. Tom Hall, Principal Environmental Consultant.

Repurposing our workspaces. Repurposing existing commercial office building stock, including refurbishment, extensions and major alterations to provide high quality, healthy, flexible and adaptable workplaces. Vince Ugarow, Design Director.

A focus on Smart. I can see a serious focus on delivering Net Zero carbon as well as energy use and efficiency in existing building stock. The application of Smart and defining Net Zero carbon will gain industry focus in April with the launch of WiredScore “Smart”. Simon Lambert, Associate Director.

A multiuse future. A move towards repurposing existing building stock for multiuse – particularly as demand for pure office space will likely decrease. We will look to reimagine High Streets, to bring them back to life and encourage localism; mixing residential, offices and retail in outdated large shopping centres. We could even locate distributed data centres in unused car parks and basements. Max Douch, Graduate Mechanical Design Engineer.

A post-pandemic boom. It is said that through examining previous world pandemic events that there is always a boom following these unfortunate incidents. So I do think 2021 and beyond will bring a sharp rise in built environment development and a significant increase in turning existing real estate stock to new uses. Matt Kitson, Design Director.

Emphasising low carbon transport and energy. I hope for real action on the ideas set out in the Government’s 10 point Green Revolution and the new Environmental Bill, which puts emphasis on low/zero carbon clean transport and energy sources. Tom Reade, Principal Air Quality Consultant.

A Net Zero agenda. We will prioritise Net Zero, making this part of the design process – as important as a heating system being designed correctly, or the building functioning for the needs of the occupants. Fiona Batha, Associate.

Expert advice on flood risks. There is mounting evidence that the frequency and intensity of rainfall events are increasing through climate change. Assessment of flooding risks and rainwater management will continues to form a key planning consideration and is one where Hilson Moran is expertly placed to advise. Toby Andrews, Associate.


Effective collaboration technology. Flexible working is here to stay and continued development of tools such as Teams/Bluebeam/Revit will be extremely useful for the industry. The ability to work in virtual real time on projects, whilst not in the same space, will become accepted and a boon to efficiency, as well as reducing the carbon impact of travel. Martin Bryan, Associate Public Health Engineer.

Touch free innovation for lifts. The use of touch free technology in calling lifts will become more popular, as well as other Smart integration approaches to manage people movement throughout large spaces and transport hubs. Matt Ingleton, Director, Vertical Transportation

Fuelling our homes. The fundamental move to change from gas to electricity to heat our homes will be a major challenge, but must be done if the Government is to meet its targets on carbon. We plan to explore green gas, clean hydrogen and other distributed heat network options. Caterina Mangia, Sustainability Consultant.

Caution for electric vehicle owners. With the greater use of hybrid electric vehicles comes the increased risk of fire from batteries, particularly where charging takes place in underground carparks below buildings. The Building Regulations should be amended and mandate fire protection and sprinkler systems to eliminate or reduce this risk. Jim Rose, Associate Fire Protection Engineer

Building material impacts. We will need to continue looking at building service materials, and equipment, that are high performance; but are also produced with a process that reduces their impact on the environment. Can we use services that are prefabricated, or even made from recycled materials? We will engage with manufacturers to understand the impact of the choices we make. Fiona Batha, Associate.

An incentive to cycle. Not only do I feel better for it healthwise, I have very little enthusiasm to go back to the daily crush on public transport when the world is back to ‘normal’. Should we, as engineers and designers, be considering how we can help facilitate alternative modes of commuting in the future, rather than just public transport? Phil Gardener, Bid Manager.

No more unnecessary travel. I hope, as vaccines are rolled out and we can work together safely once more, we also learn lessons for unnecessary travel – which has a huge carbon impact. The commercial world hopefully won’t fall back to flying half way round the world for a couple of meetings. Andrew Moore, Associate.

Collaboration is key. To continue to progress, in collaboration with colleagues across our business and strategic external partnerships, the long outstanding solutions to joining up projects and operations into a whole life, efficient process. We have a fantastic collective opportunity to showcase our knowledge at a time when the industry will be desperate for practical solutions. Andrew Holt, Director, Operational Buildings

Keep delivering, together. It’s been a tough year where everyone has had things to deal with, but I feel we have all pulled together as a company to achieve some great end results and shown our clients we can cope with change and still meet tough deadlines. Chris Jefferson, Principal Public Health Engineer.

This site uses cookies to ensure the best user experience. Read More

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.