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Trend analysis for facade system manufacturer Reynaers,

Strategic insights map future façade trends in the post Covid economy

Faced with an increasingly volatile and complex world, more clients are turning to Arup to map and analyse the trends that will shape the built environment in the years to come. With the pandemic altering the way we design the world around us in the short term, many commercial property investors and developers are adopting a longer-term view to help them capture the opportunities that lie ahead.

Looking to analyse the impact of the Covid pandemic, Belgian facade system manufacturer Reynaers appointed Arup to map out, explore and select some of the key innovation opportunities that will help it unlock value for its customers in the construction industry.

By combining a holistic assessment methodology and research framework with technical expertise, our European Foresight, Strategy & Insights team helps clients in the built environment plan for an uncertain future. Supported by our team of subject matter experts in the fields of building envelope, materials, sustainability, building physics, acoustics, as well as mechanical, electric and public health engineering they worked closely with Reynaers to create this strategic research roadmap identifying the most disruptive trends and the key opportunities for innovation and future value creation in the building envelope segment.

Strategic insight: research to unlock innovation opportunity

Our Foresight, Strategy & Insights team worked closely with the Reynaers management team to identify and evaluate strategic growth fields for the core business of the facade system manufacturer, bringing together our strategic understanding of long-term changes in the built environment, intelligence on global and emerging markets and customer needs as well as our deep domain knowledge in the field of the building envelope. We identified some of the key drivers that will shape the European construction industry in the near future, including a move towards retrofitting and increased demand for affordable housing, user health and wellbeing, the transition towards a circular economy and decarbonisation, digitisation and automation including digital fabrication, and changes to the supply chain including modular construction and prefabrication.

This work was also complemented with workshops and around 30 qualitative interviews with key industry stakeholders. The selected opportunities, aligned both with Reynaers value creation and with emerging client demand, were then analysed and assessed using the STEEP (social, technological, economic, ecological and political factors) framework.

The SoftTone window lets fresh air in but keeps noise out © Reynaers Aluminium/ Arup

Facades and COVID: night cooling and ventilation

With people spending between 60-90 percent of their time indoors, natural ventilation and effective night cooling play a major role in ensuring occupant health and wellbeing, a trend which has been accentuated by the ongoing pandemic.

Background ventilation could become a new growth segment, with smart, automated natural ventilation devices integrated with the opening elements of building facades. Low-cost sensors and actuators could help reduce airborne noise while heat loss could be minimised through flow-rate optimisation, combining natural ventilation with mechanically operated air extracts. Products like SoftTone, a noise-reducing window developed jointly by Arup and Reynears, pave the way for some of the products ready to capitalise on this growing interest.

Read more about natural ventilation trends

Night cooling is likely to be another key growth segment in the market, driven by a wider trend towards carbon-neutral buildings. We’re already seeing a larger number of commercial property owners and occupants looking for a range of passive and bioclimatic solutions to reduce their overall energy consumption. The wave of renovations expected to be prompted by the European Green Deal should also increase the commercial viability of night cooling for deep office building retrofits, with our team noting that reduced ventilation duct sizes will increase the clear floor height and therefore the asset value, balancing any additional expenditure on motorised windows.

Night cooling is best suited for open-plan, diaphanous office spaces with exposed structural elements such as concrete floor slabs and exposed brick walls located in moderate climate zones such as Benelux, Germany or northern France.

Interior view of the White Collar Factory in London's Tech City. It's a plan space with floor-to-ceiling windows alternating with porthole windows. Interior view of the White Collar Factory in London's Tech City. It's a plan space with floor-to-ceiling windows alternating with porthole windows.

Some of these cost-efficient measures have helped London’s White Collar Factory, a 16-storey, 22,000 m² office building in the Old Street Tech District area, secure a BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum rating. Learn why night cooling is a future growth market.

Facade supply chain: prefabrication and modular construction

Suppliers across the construction industry will need to revisit their downstream supply chain over coming years, with a greater focus on Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFM) helping reduce time to market and trim overall production costs.

Highlighting the importance of local and regional production ecosystems, industry players will be looking beyond price efficiencies to focus on greater supply chain resilience. In the prefabrication market, system houses will increasingly look to build coalitions with their end-customers as well as the pre-fab contractor. This will impact not just logistics and the overall route-to-market strategy, but also technical innovation such as new interfaces for individual components, different handling off- and on-site and an even higher vertical range of manufacturing. Find out how to create value with prefabrication in the facade industry.