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Redefining Construction: From Profit-Centric to Sustainable Innovation

The combination of technology, entrepreneurial spirit and environmental concerns are starting to drive genuine action. Industries like retail, print media, and transportation are well underway in reshaping the way we live. The construction industry however, has remained relatively untouched, a fact that has to change, particularly when considering that some studies have the industry down for being responsible for over 50% of climate change and 40% of waste. Historically, the construction industry has often been shaped by a bottom-line mentality – a relentless pursuit of profit that often comes at the expense of sustainability, innovation, and societal well-being.

In ten plus years of working in the industry, too many times have I heard "we just don't have the budget..." accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders and a general rehashing the same old specifications, using the same old big suppliers. Sustainable design features and eco-materials have always been first on the "value engineering" chopping block. A process pushed by developers and contractors on every project of scale: a shameless look at simplifying designs, cheaper alternatives and turning greater profits. A far cry from the term's origin, when engineer Lawrence Mills of General Electric was forced to find more alternative materials due to shortages during World War II.

There are of course glimmers of hope, new companies focusing on sustainable innovation, from mycelium insulation to large-scale 3D printing. Even some established architecture and engineering firms are getting involved by creating programs or 'collectives' to develop their own ESG responses. However, sadly the truth is larger players in the industry still just see sustainability as a box ticking exercise and the term "green washing" would be apt for many.

Traditional practices have led to resource-intensive processes, wasteful materials usage, and a substantial carbon footprint. This approach no longer aligns with the urgent need for a more conscientious and forward-thinking construction paradigm. Climate change, resource scarcity, and a pressing housing crisis, the need for transformative change in construction cannot be overstated. With a UK housing deficit requiring more than 300,000 to be built a year and approximately 100 billion units of plastic packaging being discarded annually by households, at Vector we want to connect the two issues. Vector's vision is turning local plastic waste directly into clean, high-performing and long lasting building materials for affordable homes. It's time for the industry to evolve from a myopic focus on profitability to a broader circular way of thinking, environmental responsibility, technological innovation, and social impact.

In innovative companies, this shift is bringing a new energy to the field of architecture and construction. We're seeing a surge of new ideas and approaches from startups. Enter the era of tech-driven disruptors, heralding a new dawn for the construction landscape.

These tech-driven disruptors in the construction industry can be the catalysts for this essential transformation. We accepted technological leaps from 2D to 3D and integrated data driven Building Information Modeling (BIM). Modular construction, robotics, and new sustainable materials are next in redefining the norms. These technologies will not only streamline processes, but they also reduce waste, enhance efficiency, and facilitate greater precision in design and construction.

Vector Homes is emblematic of a new breed of construction companies that prioritise sustainable, affordable, and innovative solutions. By leveraging cutting-edge technology, we are rewriting the rulebook of building design, construction, and operation. Our approach emphasises lowering embodied carbon, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and sustainable materials, all while delivering homes that are accessible to a broader spectrum of society. Throughout our Prototype builds we have continued to push the boundaries of what's possible. Vector was born, quite literally, from the labs at the GEIC (Manchester's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre). Our R&D team is striving to improve our smart homes, whether that be through the use of nano-technologies such as graphene, parametric modelling or smart sensors. The equation seems simple, innovative technology + sustainability to equal affordability, we are under no illusions that it really is simple but that is what we are endeavouring to change.

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