Developers need to take responsibility for making homes energy efficient, after a committee of MPs criticized government efforts to make housing greener.
HUB, an award-winning developer of mid-market housing, has called on the property industry to take a more proactive stance on building and retrofitting property. Steve Sanham, HUB’s development director, said sustainability commitments must be seen as “more than a just box-ticking exercise”.
It comes after the government’s “Green Deal” energy efficiency loan scheme to improve homes’ energy performance was heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for poor take-up.
Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “Not enough work went into establishing the scheme’s appeal to households, nor to its implementation, nor to examining the experience of governments setting up similar schemes overseas.
“This blinkered approach resulted in a truly dismal take-up for green deal loans and a cost to taxpayers of £17,000 for every loan arranged.”
Around £50m across 14,000 loans to households was taken up – far less than the £1.1bn predicted.
HUB has taken a proactive stance across a number of its schemes. At Hoola London, a twin skyscraper project at London’s Royal Victoria Docks, the developer struck an innovative energy-sharing arrangement with the nearby Excel Exhibition Centre, one of the first genuine district heating systems to emerge.
For its Boiler House development in Hayes, west London – on a site that previously housed EMI Records’ vinyl pressing plant – HUB will use cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame for the structure.
CLT is a sustainably sourced compressed wood composite growing in popularity. It includes far less embedded carbon than steel, but is more than strong enough for a building.
HUB currently has a pipeline of more than 1,700 homes across the South East, making it one of the most active non-listed housing developers in Britain. The company won Developer of the Year at the recent RESI Awards.
The London-based developer was appointed this week by London Borough of Croydon to build 500 homes on the site of the council’s old headquarters. Sitting in the constituency of Gavin Barwell, the new housing and planning minister, the homes will be a mix of for sale and market rent.
Steve Sanham, development director at HUB, said:
“As a sector, we’ve got to get real. Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of carbon emissions, with housing being roughly half of that. There’s a lot we can do and as technology evolves, making a difference will get easier.
“Initiatives like the Green Deal are potentially important because existing buildings that are most problematic environmentally. New builds represent a tiny proportion of Britain’s housing stock. The problem with Green Deal, like many initiatives, was that is was drafted by committee and incomprehensible even to qualified engineers and experts.
“Clearly, there are cost constraints in upgrading old buildings. But finding tax efficient ways to encourage change is essential. This could include getting developers to sponsor upgrades to older buildings when new ones are built, or ensuring that landlords play a greater role in maintaining housing stock rented out.
“While no one would require a ‘one size fits all’ solution, we do need more collective responsibility – rather than simply a top down government-driven approach that simply doesn’t work.
“This means seeing sustainability as more than just a box-ticking exercise or subtitle in a CSR strategy.”