The construction industry contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, including the embodied energy in the building materials and installation itself and the ongoing running costs associated with them. As developers, you constantly strive to improve that bottom line, but that doesn’t always need to involve ‘cutting costs’ and value engineering. What about improving the top line with added value instead? That’s what I believe the future generation of homeowners will expect – and will be willing to pay for! In an ever more ‘sustainability’ conscious society, you can really set your product apart from the next by using on-site renewable energy generation, creating thermally efficient fabric, installing innovative technology and using highly efficient ventilation systems such as Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) whilst also improving in-house air quality. Granted, this comes at an extra capital cost, but government regulations in Part L of the Building Regulations already stipulate some stringent energy requirements for developers to meet. These cannot be ignored and must be planned for at an early design stage, or you may face the disaster of retrofitting energy measures or, worse, re-doing completed work. Costly and time-consuming! Many local councils will also stipulate an improvement over these building regulation values as a planning condition. Merton Council, to name one, request a 19% improvement over the CO2 emissions rating for a multi-unit house conversion.
The Greater London Authority (GLA) set out the hierarchy of the key components you should think about when designing your schemes.
Practically this includes installing things like LED lighting, A++ rated white goods, using intelligent heating controls, and most importantly, improving the buildings' fabric energy efficiency to reduce the heating demand.
How efficient is your energy supply? This could be as simple as installing a more efficient boiler or larger projects using Combined Heat & Power (CHP) plant community-wide energy strategy to generate energy more efficiently and reuse otherwise wasted heat.
This step involves using on-site renewable energy systems such as PV Solar panels, Solar water heating, or Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP), to name just a few.
The final stage is 'Offsetting', and at this point, your development produces more energy than the site needs and becomes zero carbon.
Interestingly, a property developer can also profit, as any excess energy produced on-site can be sold back to the grid, for example. For more significant developments and where the developer is keeping freehold ownership, this opens doors to an alternative revenue stream, and by default, an increase in site value.
Certainly, in London, most Boroughs are pushing for tighter regulations and stipulating higher than ‘standard’ levels of energy efficiency as a necessity. This may be a burden on the developer. However, with rising energy prices, consumers are now more aware of escalating bills and are willing to buy into the cheaper running costs that a highly sustainable home can provide.
We partner with experts in the field and promote energy efficiency and improved thermal performance in all of our work. Check out one of our recent blogs where Dr Chris Jardine from Joju Solar discussed the benefits of using Solar Energy. If you have a property development where Sustainability is at the heart of your offering to the market, we’d love to speak to you!