Eco homes in the UK are swiftly progressing from one-off anomalies to more widely available options. Reviews from residents on HomeViews suggest that sustainability is now an effective selling point, with residents citing the green credentials of a property as one of their reasons for choosing to live there. We take a look at a selection of eco-friendly homes and developments by some of the leading larger-scale developers in the UK. We also explore some of the new construction techniques that look set to make all homes more sustainable in the future.
While much has been written about one-off, bespoke eco homes, the impact of more sustainable homes is limited unless they are built on a much larger scale. New technologies take time to trickle down, but we are now seeing large house builders embracing greener building techniques and more sustainable approaches.
UK demand for eco homes?
Here at HomeViews we see thousands of reviews for new homes across the country. We’ve noticed that schemes like Elephant Park appear to attract residents who place sustainability as a key factor in their decision to move there. Lower utilities bills are also obviously an attractive feature of sustainably-designed homes.
The review below illustrates a desire among property hunters for an authentically sustainable home. This reviewer also highlights the problems of the “lip service” approach to sustainability that has come to be labelled ‘greenwash’.
Net zero regeneration
Elephant Park is a regeneration project in South London managed by Lendlease. Located in Elephant & Castle, the development will deliver 3,000 new homes by 2025. The goal is for all of these to achieve net-zero carbon energy, as part of the C40 Climate Positive Development Program.
The C40 Climate Positive Development Program also includes other pionering projects in Australia, India, Denmark and the USA. These are all larger-scale sustainable developments that aim to showcase how cities can expand in environmentally and economically sustainable ways.
Developments within the C40 program strive to create communities that achieve net-zero carbon emmissions. This is achieved in two main ways. Firstly, the projects pursue a reduction of carbon emmissions in the form of energy, transport and waste. Secondly, ways are found to offset any carbon produced in the local environment.
As part of the range of energy-efficient features and careful offsetting of carbon, Elephant park also includes a collection of 15 Passivhaus townhouses. These highly efficient ‘Futurehome’ houses offer traditional styling along with cutting edge technology, blending in carefully with the surrounding Victorian Conservation Area.
The German Passivhaus code has received a lot of attention in the press, although most often as part of one-off self-build eco homes in the UK. It is a set of standards that buildings must meet in order to be classified as a ‘Passivhaus’.
This system involves making the building as airtight as possible, as well as creating an exceptionally efficient level of insulation. This means the building requires very little energy to heat or cool and. With the addition of heat recovery systems and mechanical ventilation, these buildings create a very small carbon footprint.
The largest Passivhaus scheme in the UK is the Agar Grove Estate, currently being redeveloped by Camden Council (see below). Once all six phases are complete, 493 new homes will be created – although not all will be Passivhaus- certified.
Another key technology that is improving the sustainability of UK development is that of modern methods of construction (MMC), also known as ‘offfsite’ or ‘modular’ construction. This essentially involves building sections of a development in a factory before transporting them to the site for quick, easy installation.
This technique can drastically reduce construction times and reduce the environmental impact of the building site. Moving more of the contruction process to a factory allows for greater control over waste and increased recycling. MMC buildings also often feature higer levels of insulation and airtightness.
Award-winning developer Berkeley Homes has developed its own modular building system that it calls the Urban House design. These are built as complete room modules in a factory then transported to site for assembly. Kidbrooke Village was the first of the company’s devlepments to incorporate this, with 22 Urban House properties included in the scheme.
Berkeley Homes also worked closely with the London Wildlife Trust to ensure that the development contributed to local biodiversity. 35 acres of green space link the different zones of the development. The scheme also uses a combined heat and power (CHP) system that reduces energy usage on the site.
HomeViews provides verified resident reviews of the UK’s housing developments. We’re working with developers, landlords and the Government to recognise high performers and help to improve standards in the built environment.