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column: new reality

lucas van der wee

I read an urgent message, once again, about the need to reinvent ourselves. The latest ‘new reality’ values renovation over new construction, claims a circular economy and takes ‘Paris Proof’ as a starting point. Something similar happened after the 2008 financial crisis: we were urged to leave the 1990s behind and focus on the new reality of value creation, placemaking and sustainability. Proclaiming a ‘new reality’ seems a way of getting a grip on changing circumstances and provides a framework for anticipating future challenges. Combining a urgently worrisome situation with a hopeful outlook reassures us.

At last month's Marktochtend (market morning) of the Rijksvastgoedbedrijf (government property agency), it was noted that the challenges in our profession are such a complex matter currently, that it calls for a radical shift in contracting. The pressing reason: the sustainability task of existing real estate, the housing shortage, the accelerated energy transition and the adaptation of the cable infrastructure. This against a background of an overstrained construction market and a shortage of workers.

The idea is to enter into long-term collaborations by tendering series of projects instead of calling for separate projects one at a time. This gives certainty and offers opportunities to invest in collaborations further down the chain, but seems mainly conceived from the perspective of large construction parties. What it means for smaller builders, for price levels, and for future-conscious aspects such as the adaptability of buildings, remains out of the picture. The design and consultancy world is hardly mentioned in this proposal. Will they be involved on a project basis? Or will design and engineering shift to design & build type constructions?

While this 'newest' reality may be a promising prospect in some respects, it simultaneously results in a narrowing of the market, less customization and a brake on innovation. Fortunately, practice is obstinate and a new reality often looks strikingly like the old one. Which is not to say that we should take the roles and dynamics in the construction world for granted.

ronald schleurholts
architect-partner cepezed

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