Sustainable homes and places

Sustainable homes

Our research shows that around 48% of existing and potential new home customers consider the environmental performance of the home to be an important factor in choosing a housebuilder. 


Energy efficient homes today

The majority of our homes built in 2023 were designed to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of B. Features include insulation, energy-efficient walls and windows, 100% low energy light fittings, and energy efficient appliances. 

We are now rolling out homes built to our new specification in line with the updates to Building Regulations Part L, F and O. These integrate enhanced fabric standards, further energy efficiency measures and low carbon technology including triple glazing, wastewater heat recovery systems, high efficiency boilers, thermally enhanced lintels and photovoltaic (PV) panels. More homes will also include EV chargers. In England, these changes result in an average 31% reduction in carbon emissions, compared to our previous specification with similar reductions achieved in Wales and Scotland. We are one of the first UK housebuilders to use triple glazing at scale and we have been working closely with our window suppliers and sub-contractors to prepare for this change. 

Highlights from 2023 include:
- 20% of our homes integrated on site PV panels (2022: 17%). 
More than 99.5% of our new homes included smart meters to enable customers to monitor electricity and gas use in real time. 

We now submit photographic records at key build stages for review by an external SAP assessor, to demonstrate that our homes are built to the energy efficiency standards specified. 

Towards zero carbon homes

Over the next few years we will make further changes to our homes. We expect them to be zero carbon ready in England following the introduction of the Future Homes Standard in 2025 and from 2024 in Scotland with the introduction of the New Build Heat Standard.  

Our Road to Net Zero Carbon Working Group is guiding our preparations and the changes to our specification. Our successful build trial at Sudbury is a key step in this process and we are using the findings to create a specification that is customer focused and cost effective as well as energy and carbon efficient. 

Reaching the UK’s net zero target requires big changes across the economy, including workforce skills and materials innovation. We are working closely with our suppliers and subcontractors and collaborating with other housebuilders on some of these challenges through the Future Homes Hub.

Read more on our approach to skills and development 


Future homes become reality at Sudbury

At our future homes build trial in Sudbury, Suffolk, we have built five zero carbon ready fully electric homes fitted with a range of energy-efficient and low carbon technology combinations. We believe it is the first trial of its type in a live construction site setting.

Features and technologies used include triple glazing, high performance front doors and enhanced insulation, PV panels and battery storage, air source heat pumps, wastewater heat recovery, heat pump cylinders, electric panel heating, smart cylinders, underfloor heating, thermaskirt heated skirting boards, mechanical ventilation heat recovery, infrared radiant heating and smart home technology. Each plot has a different specification so we can compare the benefits.

We gathered feedback from our teams and subcontractors and are continuing to conduct performance tests on energy usage, heat loss and user comfort. Around 450 people visited the plots including customers, colleagues, lenders, investors, industry experts and politicians which provided a great opportunity to understand attitudes to the new technologies and specifications. We used augmented reality and videos to help visitors ‘see below the surface’ in the new homes and understand how the technologies work.

Feedback from the visits and a customer focus group showed that 81% feel that the use of low carbon technologies enhances the value of new homes. Further customer research showed that customers are particularly positive about features such as underfloor heating and triple glazing, and there is growing familiarity and interest in technologies such as air source heat pumps and PV panels.

The plots are now being sold, and once the occupants move in we will be running a post-occupancy trial. This will monitor energy bills and gather feedback on what it is like to live in the new homes and use the technology day to day. The findings of our research are helping us to develop our homes and prepare for the introduction of the Future Homes Standard in 2025.

Elsewhere on our development in Sudbury, we are working in partnership with utility provider GTC to create a pioneering community heat hub that uses large-scale air source heat pumps to supply homes with heat and hot water. Carbon emissions will be reduced by up to 80% compared to traditional gas heating.

Sustainable living for customers

As well as the energy efficiency features of our new homes, customers also benefit from:

Water saving: All our homes in England and Wales have water meters fitted, and all have low flow taps and showers, and dual flush toilets. Our homes are designed to achieve a maximum internal water use of 120 litres per person per day and many are even more water efficient. We have installed just under 1,988 water butts since 2021 to help customers save water in their gardens.

Resources and recycling: We have made integrated recycling bins part of the specification for kitchens in our new standard house types to help customers increase recycling. 

Nature on developments: We’re creating more space for nature on our sites and engaging customers on nature friendly gardening. We’ve also installed beehives on 16 sites to encourage residents to engage with nature and some sites include features such as community orchards and allotments. For example, our Lockside Wharf development in the West Midlands has created nature-friendly show home gardens to demonstrate to homeowners what can be achieved. Garden features include bug hotels, log piles for amphibians, bird boxes and a timber sleeper tiered herb garden. The development will also feature a community orchard.

Read more about our approach to nature

Working from home: We estimate we have supported working from home for around 5,820 customers so far. This is calculated based on the number of our standard house types which include a study area in their floor plan.

Information and advice: We want to make sure customers understand and know how to use the energy efficient and low carbon features in their new homes. This will become increasingly important as we introduce more low carbon technologies. 

In 2023, we developed an innovative set of new visual assets to help explain the technologies used in our homes as well as features in and around the developments. Customers can access these via a QR code when visiting one of our show homes.

Examples include:
An interactive and animated visual explaining the process of constructing the floor in a new home and the benefits of using timber frame
A video explaining how wastewater heat recovery systems work and how they can improve energy efficiency in the home
An interactive model describing how Air Source Heat Pumps work and the benefits for customers and the environment. 

We’re improving the signage in our show homes to help customers understand the energy efficiency features and benefits. Customers can also access information on the sustainability features of our homes via our website, marketing materials, signage on our developments and, once they’ve moved in, our ‘From House to Home’ manual. This includes tips on saving energy, reducing waste, maintaining good internal air quality and encouraging nature in their gardens. Details on how to use and maintain their home’s environmental features are also included in our Maintenance Guide.

Low carbon transport: See Sustainable places for more information

Research and innovation

We are investing in research and product trials to help us improve the sustainability, standardisation and quality of the homes we build. Our R&D Director coordinates our research efforts and chairs our Functional Interface Group that tests and trials new, innovative and alternative products.

Our research projects in 2023 included:
• Our Future Homes Standard plot trials and follow up customer research
• Trials of diesel hybrid generators 
• Desktop review of the use of eco bricks and other brick slip systems that can reduce materials use and transport emissions
  Trials of energy monitoring smart meters in our south east business
  A trial of solar powered site cabins at our business in Wales
  Installation of our first community heat network using air source heat pumps with utility provider GTC at our site in Sudbury

Sudbury future homes

Modern methods of construction 

Off site construction techniques can improve the energy performance of our homes and also contribute to business efficiency. Often, they also have a lower environmental footprint as they can be manufactured efficiently with less waste. 

16% of our homes integrate timber frame and we aim to increase that to 30%. We have opened our own timber frame facility to help us achieve this. It will start manufacturing and supplying our sites during 2024 and has the potential to supply around 3,000 timber frame kits a year when at full strength. 

Around 85% of our homes use off site components such as spandrel panels, smart roof panelised cassette roofs, cassette timber floors and prefabricated porches, canopies and dormers. 

We are looking to integrate greater use of off-site manufactured products into the specification for our new standard apartments. This may include brick systems, insulated floor slabs, modular roof systems and balconies.