City residential design gets a revamp - New challenges for safety?

by Liam Flowers

Any industry has to move with the times to remain sustainable and construction is no different. Gone are the days of blitzing through the English countryside at rate of knots swallowing up greenbelt territories and, subsequently, the redevelopment of brownfield urban sites has become increasingly prevalent to breathe new life into city dwellings.

Innovative inner-city construction methods will become increasingly commonplace in the future to maximise space in metropolitan areas. They will bring their own safety challenges with proximity to one another and speed/variety of build but are nonetheless an effective and pioneering way of helping to try and create real 'communities'.

To this end, property developers are becoming increasingly creative. Berkeley Group have developed the 'Urban House', which offers local authorities a new way of providing high density homes across sites of scales not previously viable. They are looking to use a modular system to construct intensively off-site and speed up delivery time to just 14 weeks.

Of course, constructing off-site relieves certain pressures but the preparation of these sites for 'installation' and assembling of these innovative new designs and the subsequent development of these brownfield sites can be a veritable minefield. Comprehensive knowledge of the application and implications of CDM 2015 is intrinsic to the initial planning of any of these projects to ensure site teams are well-versed and aware throughout the construction process. Transporting of such readily constructible housing brings a wealth of logistical issues as well and traffic management becomes another contemplation.

Some of the construction issues include workforce considerations, safety, time constraints, and the changing nature of the work. There are however several non-construction challenges that are part of the business landscape. These include legal issues, government regulations, environmental concerns, and socio-political pressures. It is critical that in the project delivery for these schemes that the safety professional understands the demanding realities that he or she faces in the planning and control of construction operations.

Gone are the days where a hard hat, hi-viz and a clipboard were all that was needed for a construction safety advisor. Work pressures for the site teams in the quality and speed of these builds creates stresses that can affect performance and wellbeing and the modern HSE professional has to wear many different hats to cope with such demands.

Behavioural awareness and achieving buy-in from site to Director level is increasingly paramount to ensuring high safety performance.

The sustainability of these communities will be carefully considered as it increasingly is in our environmentally-focussed world; including not just ecological and carbon footprint-orientated concerns but also socio-economic implications in the management of these communities thereafter. Are these residential areas affordable for the majority of families in the current property market? Hopefully in years to come the ease of build and ground-breaking methods used to economise space (whilst providing stylish and functional surroundings) will encourage families to look to the city and not suburbia to settle.

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