Greener is better: why we need to build more sustainable homes



Tim Foreman, managing director, land and new homes, LRG

In the UK, more people than ever are recycling and doing their part to help halt the drastic climate change that has engulfed the globe at an alarming rate. Monitoring our carbon footprint is no longer seen as a pursuit for eco-warriors: green living, thankfully, has gone mainstream.

This behaviour has carried over to homebuying preferences, as more and more consumers start to see sustainable housing as a necessity not a luxury. There’s no doubt that building greener homes is more expensive and time consuming than standard housing stock, so why should homebuilders go green?

As forests burn, icecaps melt and cities drown, it is clear why everyone should be doing their level best to live more sustainably. If the reality isn’t stark enough, the title of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report, ‘a code red for humanity’, certainly is.

The need for everyone to do better when it comes to saving the environment is particularly pressing for our industry: the building sector has the biggest potential to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions, in comparison to other sectors. 84 gigatonnes of CO2 could be made by 2050 through direct measures such as energy efficiency, switching fuels that power homes, and the use of renewables in buildings.

Housing industries from around the world stand as an example for how these savings have tangible impacts for builders and buyers. Head over to the US and you’ll see how buildings achieving the LEED certification are shown to consume 25% less energy and 11% less water than non-green buildings. Or visit Australia, where their greener buildings have been shown to produce 62% fewer greenhouse emissions.

As good as the altruistic feeling is when it comes to building greener, money is the most obvious motivator for companies to set more sustainable foundations. This links to a regular occurrence my team and I see: if there are two homes for sale for similar prices, the greener home will likely sell first. With more homes set to be built over the next few years, this alone should encourage homebuilders to make their stock as competitive as possible to maximise profits.

Money talks for home buyers as well; despite greener homes potentially being more expensive to start with, the saving in the long run appeals to the eco-conscious, who know that sustainable homes save money through water and energy efficiency in the long run. Speaking of the future, savvy buyers will also understand that eco-friendly homes will require less maintenance and have more resale value in the market.

Seeing the savings is believing them, though, and this is one of the many reasons we support the return of the Green Homes Grant, which provides vouchers to install one or more energy-saving measures in homes. It makes embracing the potential savings of a greener home more accessible. If you followed the press around the time of the Green Homes Grant, you may not agree with me, but there was nothing wrong with the scheme in itself, it’s just the implementation that went horribly wrong.

Our support of more sustainable building isn’t just lip service – we understand that actions speak louder than words, so we ourselves have instigated initiatives to give back to the environment that homebuilding draws from. Our ‘Plant a Tree’ program is a partnership with GreenTheUK to plant one tree for every house sold or let through the company – our aim is to plant 16,000 trees in 2022 (the equivalent of 23 football pitches).

It joins our other green initiatives that include us using eco boards across the group to further help reduce our environmental impact.

Significant change is difficult for any industry, let alone one as complex as ours, but there’s a huge benefit to everyone in the sector playing their part in the fight against climate change – both ethically and financially. Homebuilders are well positioned to make a huge impact with this, and so must lead the way when it comes laying sustainable foundations.

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