Five trends
for 2024

Where does hope for the future lie? We look ahead and share thoughts on where the tables might just be turning. 

We think evidence of the clear link between pollution and ill health will continue to mount, setting off alarm bells which will eventually ring loud enough.

Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital have announced that doctors have started taking account of air pollution levels for home addresses when assessing what is making patients ill.

Our first hunch about trends for 2024 relates to air quality and health. The biggest reductions in air pollution lead to the greatest health gains, which is why car-free streets matter so much. In central London, streets have become parks and even that notorious bottleneck, Strand Aldwych, is now a free-from traffic public space. Plans are afoot to rethink Great Ormond Street itself (early concept designs below). But in most places, even where there is strong appetite for change, progress towards greener, safer streets is slow, even suffering setbacks.

So how do you achieve change at pace and take people with you? We think evidence of the clear link between pollution and ill health will continue to mount fast through 2024, setting off alarm bells which will eventually ring loud enough. Wherever you live, the local hospital is a good place to launch a new approach, taking a long hard look at the roads and streets that feed it.

Our second hunch is also about how the tables are turning. Children and teenagers and young women have routinely been ignored when it comes to consultation exercises for local changes that affect them. No wonder some professionals in the built environment sphere are still feeling a bit rocky when it comes to defining social value.

But in 2024, we think that meaningful conversations with all the people who count, the people who live and learn and work in an area facing change, will become the norm. It is the Social in ESG that is increasingly driving investment decisions, and it this which is key to a wholesale change in thinking when it comes to setting off on a new project – be it a new place or major new infrastructure. With community wants, needs and wellbeing much more firmly embedded than ever before into the heart of the process, linked closely to climate and nature. There’s no turning back on this now and it will lead to better design and better outcomes.

A pioneering new approach in Aberfeldy, east London, that puts teenagers at the heart of the change process. Photo by Thomas Graham

Gen Z are looking for greater business transparency. Our new ethical decision-making framework ensures we pitch for projects that our employee owners are proud to work on.

Our third trend for 2024 also relates to young people, but with a strong element of self-interest. The skills shortage is such a massive issue for our professions that diversity and inclusion will become an everyday topic of conversation. 

So, we hope we’ll see many more companies actively reaching out to underrepresented groups, expanding placements, introducing generous bursaries and internships, and linking with schools and colleges. It should all add up to a sustained campaign to make young people excited about the opportunity in our professions to change lives for the better.  

In 2024, we think that businesses of all colours will be exposed to more assertive questioning from their teams about the work they are pitching for. It’s true that there has been no shortage of companies lining up to work on the future of urban living Neom-style, and to fashion its mirrored architectural masterpieces. But in choosing whether to pitch for this kind of project in the first place, there will be less of “why wouldn’t we?” and “if not us, then who would do it better?” and more “why would we?”. Most likely this is because more people are speaking up for equity, nature and the planet and just by doing that, they are reframing the decision-making process and changing accepted norms.

At LDA Design, we’ve introduced an ethical decision-making framework to prompt this kind of debate, and we’re finding it gives us the best chance of pitching for projects that our employee owners will be proud to work on. The most exciting designs in 2024 will be truly sustainable, in that they do a lot with a little.

Our final thought on trends for 2024 is that all eyes will be on Paris – but not just for hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The mayor, Anne Hidalgo, wants Paris to become “the greenest big city in Europe”. Her office is quickly creating the infrastructure necessary. Paris never was a cycling city, but with hundreds of miles of bike lanes created within the past three years, there are already more bikes than cars on some main avenues at rush hour.

We are big fans of the approach the Welsh government is taking to wellbeing. Might Paris also be a place to find some of the answers to the urgent questions of 2024?

This progressive programme for healthier streets is matched by a movement intent on derailing it. Removing 70,000 daily car trips from the Quays required some neat legal footwork. But the victory has created one of the most enchanting and generous routes for walking and cycling to be found in any city centre.

Paris is using the Games to create a social legacy, just like London did in 2012.  So, the Olympic Village is being sited along the banks of the Seine in the northern outskirts in order to provide a significant amount of new social housing and jobs and homes for about 6,000 people living in deprived communes there.

We are big fans of the approach that the Welsh government is taking to improve social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being, and it is worth taking a look at their thoughtful report on progress in 2023.  But might Paris also be a place to find some of the answers to the urgent questions of 2024 – how do you achieve change at pace, and how do you take people with you? Let the Games begin.

Lead image: Grisha Besko / Pexels 
Paris cyclists: Uummano Dias / Unsplash
Paris Olympics: Luca Dugaro / Unsplas

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