Eco Warning Challenge to Housing Sector

Places for People, a leading UK eco-developer, has warned that new government guidelines to improve the environmental performance of new-build homes must be applied to all existing housing if the industry is to tackle the looming threat posed by climate change.

The UK’s largest housing and regeneration group, which is responsible for nearly 60,000 homes and is piloting a range of renewable technologies in developments across the UK, welcomed the new guidelines but said that clear mandatory targets are needed for all types of housing

Nicholas Doyle, project director for sustainability at Places for People said:
“This is a massive step in the right direction and will help planners and the housing sector rethink the way they design low carbon sustainable homes and communities.

“Designing environmentally friendly homes is one of the biggest challenges currently faced by developers and planners with the average home emitting more than a quarter of all carbon emissions. Yet if we are serious about tackling the threats and challenges posed by climate change, the government should extend its guidance and set targets for existing housing."

Places for People – the UK’s largest housing and regeneration group – is designing and constructing homes that are energy efficient; have traditional appeal and feature a range of renewable technologies such as solar and geothermal power. But at the same time, it is also taking steps to ensure to raise the environmental performance of its extensive existing stock. Last year the group invested over £17m to modernise and improve 4000 of its properties. It is also working with customers to inform them of ways which they can reduce their energy consumption.

At Broughton Square, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, Places for People has created a large mixed community that has a range of innovative green features. In 2005, the £27 million development was awarded an ‘EcoHomes Excellent’ rating, making it one of the largest schemes in the UK to receive the industry’s gold standard on environmental sustainability.

EcoHome features at Broughton Square include water butts to collect rainwater from properties for use on gardens, the use of timber from sustainable sources, provision of onsite recycling facilities and a Sustainable Urban Drainage System which help reduce the amount of pollutants being washed into rivers. All 229 homes have very high energy efficiency ratings reducing CO2 emissions.

It is also working with residents at Broughton to encourage them to think about the amount of energy they may be wasting. In a pilot project it has installed Electrisave meters in people’s homes. This is a simple device which tells you how much electricity you are using and how much it is costs in pence per hour. It also shows how much carbon your home is emitting. The project has helped reduce customers fuel bills by 15 per cent and has changed the way people think about and use their electricity.

These approaches are being mirrored in Places for People’s work in other parts of the country. In Sheffield it is piloting the use of solar panels at Norfolk Park - a mixed tenure development – which is a useful and cost-effective method of achieving a 10 per cent renewable energy target. The Group is looking at extending the trial next year.

In Cambridge it is also developing 141 homes for affordable rent and shared ownership which use ground source heat pumps – an energy efficient heating and cooling system, to produce not only heat and hot water, but also electricity for the home.

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