Bob Kerslake – Housing Today
HBF’s 1st Environment Summit
Not long ago, the Home Builders Federation hosted its first ever environment summit. Government officials, housebuilders, housing associations, energy suppliers, material and appliance manufacturers, local authorities, and environmental groups discussed which policies and collaborations will enable us to make progress towards a zero-carbon future.
3 Inescapable Facts
The discussions highlighted the many challenges and complexities we are grappling with. Three facts are clear and inescapable, and point us to the changes we need to make.
First, we are indisputably in the midst of a housing supply crisis and a climate emergency. It is vital that in our enthusiasm to tackle the former, we do not make it more difficult to address the latter.
Secondly, energy use from new and existing homes accounts for 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions – a significant contributor.
And thirdly, just 1% of new-build homes met the highest environmental standards as recently as 2018.
Taken together, these facts demonstrate the scale of the problem. From Peabody’s perspective, clearly a priority in the years to come will be to improve our existing buildings’ performance in a fair and cost-effective way. But just as important is how the homebuilding industry can deliver better, more efficient, and more sustainable new-build homes now.
There is a risk that the imperative to tackle the supply crisis at scale and with speed means we could end up with a product that meets environmental standards but is not sufficiently sustainable or efficient. This willl not help us get to net-zero.
Great Improvement Needed
Modern methods of construction and offsite manufacture will help but using them at scale is some way off. Homes built today produce 70% less carbon emissions than typical, older properties, but are not performing as well as they might, or as well as will be necessary. The evidence from last year’s Committee on Climate Change report on UK housing’s environmental performance suggests there is a great deal of improvement needed.
Rising to the Challenge
We need to have a clear focus on quality and sustainability going forward. The homes we are building now must be fit for the future – of course in safety terms, but also in environmental terms – if we are to rise to the zero-carbon challenge.
Joint Green Task Force
I’m continuing to argue for a joint green task force that will bring together the public and private sectors, where government and industry can investigate practical ways to resolve these issues and help speed up our progress towards net-zero.
I’m arguing for a joint green task force that will bring together the public and private sectors
3 Important Principles
In the meantime, I think there are three important principles to set us on our way: regulation, collaboration, and fairness.
Robust regulation and standardisation set by government with input from industry
Collaboration between experts and sectors to deliver on shared sustainability goals and meet the targetsCo-operation with consumers to ensure there is a just and fair transition to zero-carbon.
As far as possible, we must not allow the financial costs of this to fall on to people who can ill afford it.
I am pleased the government is now committed to playing an active role in establishing standards and regulations. It is a far cry from the bonfire of “red tape” 10 years ago. The principle of the proposals in its Future Homes Standard consultation, despite the environmental protests last week, are a step in the right direction.
It will be important to have robust national emissions standards if we are to tackle the issue of sustainable housing supply.If new building standards are written well, they should contribute to more efficient building fabric, and better and more widespread use of low-carbon technologies and heat recovery systems.
Meaningful Impact Needed
Clearly, the standard needs to be at a certain level to have a meaningful impact. I believe the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should look at adopting the targets set out in the London Plan as the national standard.
Of course, there will need to be transitional arrangements so as not to jeopardise the viability of developments that have planning but are yet to be built. Targets also need to be planned to prevent residents being hit with high service and maintenance charges. But there do need to be effective and robust standards if we are to succeed and achieve good sustainable growth.
Targets need to be planned to prevent residents being hit with high service and maintenance charges
In addition to regulation and standardisation, we need deeper levels of collaboration between the public and private sectors to achieve better environmental performance. No one sector or group can operate in isolation on this.
For example, the carbon emitted from the manufacturing and transport of construction materials is just as relevant and damaging as the emissions from the subsequent use of a building, so different sectors need to come together to look at these issues.
And finally, the principle of fairness needs to be ingrained to ensure a just transition. We know that people on council house waiting lists, who may benefit from a social rented home in the future will need an energy-efficient dwelling at a low financial cost to themselves. They cannot be expected to pick up the costs of the building’s higher environmental performance. Getting to zero-carbon without hitting the most vulnerable will need fair and shared funding.
Still in the ‘Foothills’
The HBF is to be congratulated on taking the initiative to hold the environment summit. But housebuilders, housing associations and local authorities alike know that they are still in the foothills of responding to this enormous challenge.
Bob Kerslake is chair of Peabody and Be First, president of the LGA, and a member of the House of Lords
Now Do Your Bit
Modular Off-site MMC SIP & Timber Frame structures provide excellent ways to save waste and deliver top energy rated homes. Working with architects, planners and environmentalists to satisfy all types of design, we are already well on the way to incorporating waste reduction measures into our procedures and processes. This means our ‘Volumetric’ and ‘Flat pack’ modular building solutions envisaging ultimate demolition and clearance can ‘tread lightly on the earth’ as we adapt business innovations and developments to environmental needs.
Learn & Earn with DfMA
Applying DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) to lightweight structures defines the process of taking these to the next level. For example, standard designs from our very low rise ‘SolidLox’ brand enable us to provide buildings that do not require massive foundations and which can avoid harming tree roots while delivering on time and within budget.
Such projects require a systematic, solution driven approach which brings discipline to the process, sharing information and communications.; a welcome change in the overall approach to project management and development – and to those who just ‘talk about it’!
Partnering for Modular Progress
All of this entails a shift in thinking to that already practiced by established ‘Off-Site’ MMC manufacturers. It can be quickly and easily incorporated into procedures and processes of building and development. Better still, you can make partnering arrangements with such manufacturers to gain all round benefits.
Greater Speed, Accuracy, Quality and Lower Costs
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers will deliver these. The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results. This virtually provides any housebuilder or architect with their own bespoke design factory facility.