Sustainable homes and places

Towards zero carbon homes

Development

The way we design and build our homes can enable our customers to live a more sustainable and resource efficient lifestyle. Our homes are already highly energy efficient, with data from the Home Builders Federation (HBF), suggesting that buyers of a new build house will save on average around £2,600 per year in energy bills. Over the next five years we will make further improvements and expect our homes to be zero carbon ready following the introduction of the Future Homes Standard in 2025.

Our homes in 2022: On average, our standard house types are 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. Around 17% of our homes integrated on-site renewables such as photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Enhancing energy efficiency in 2023: We are starting to roll out changes to our homes in line with the updates to Building Regulations Part L and F. This will see us integrate enhanced fabric standards, further energy efficiency measures and low carbon technology including wastewater heat recovery systems, high efficiency boilers, thermally enhanced lintels and PV panels. More homes will also include triple glazing and EV chargers. These changes will result in an average 31% reduction in carbon emissions, compared to our current specification. We will submit photographic records at key stages of the build process for review by an external SAP assessor, to demonstrate that our homes are built to the energy efficiency standards specified.

Preparing for the Future Homes Standard (FHS): The FHS looks set to be the biggest regulatory shift for the home building industry in many years. Our Road to Net Zero Carbon Working Group is guiding our preparations and we are exploring the optimum specification for our homes to enable significant further energy efficiency enhancements and all-electric low-carbon heating. We are also working closely with our suppliers and other housebuilders on some of these challenges through the Future Homes Hub.

Development

Trialling zero carbon homes

Reaching the UK’s target to be net zero carbon by 2050 requires big changes across the economy, including to our homes and developments. Our own net zero target is even more ambitious so we’re already investing in research to prepare for zero carbon ready homes.

We started building our first trial of five plots at our Chilton Woods site in Sudbury, Suffolk, in 2022. The five homes we’ve built will be 100% electric with triple glazing and enhanced fabric to reduce heat loss. Inside we are testing a range of energy efficient and low carbon technologies including air source heat pumps, heat pump cylinders, electric panel heating, smart cylinders, underfloor heating, thermaskirt heated skirting boards, infrared radiant heating and battery storage. Each of the five plots is being built to a different specification to enable us to compare the benefits. We believe this is the first trial of multiple specifications at a live construction site in our sector.

We’re gathering feedback from our teams and sub-contractors on which technologies are most straightforward to install. Once the build is complete, we will conduct performance tests looking at energy usage, user comfort, heat loss and potential for overheating. We will also monitor running costs post-occupancy.

Chilton Woods also includes an innovative sustainable heating network that will eliminate the need for gas boilers in the next development phases. The network uses large-scale air-source heat pumps to supply homes with heat and hot water, that are expected to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80% compared to gas boiler systems. 

Sustainable living for customers

We integrate water, energy and resource efficiency features in our homes and on our developments and provide information and inspiration to help customers to live more sustainably. Our approach includes:

Water efficiency: 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 this will reduce further over the next few years.

Nature on developments: Through our biodiversity strategy we’re creating more space for nature on our sites and installing wildlife enhancements as standard (link), which can enhance customer wellbeing. We want to inspire customers to adopt nature-friendly gardening techniques and have added guides to our website in partnership with Hedgehog Street and BugLife and developed a range of communications materials that business units can use to engage customers and local communities in nature-based activities. In 2022, we distributed over 2,196 home welcome packs with wildflower seeds, bug hotels and other products to help customers put the ideas into practice. One of our sites has also developed a nature friendly garden for its show home and we hope to roll this out at further sites.

Several of our sites are supporting BugLife’s B-Lines initiative to create pathways for pollinators. In some locations we are installing beehives, and have found this to be a good way to get customers and colleagues thinking about nature and the importance of pollinators. Three business units have installed bee hives so far.

Resources and recycling: We are reviewing our plotting for house types to understand the best locations for water butt installation as the first step towards our target to help more customers install a water butt. We expect to add water butts to our customer option portal in 2023 to support more customers to save water in their gardens. We are also working on increasing the number of kitchens with integrated recycling bins.  

Information and advice for customers: We communicate the resource efficiency benefits of our new homes to potential customers, including information on energy efficiency on our website and marketing materials. All our customers receive information on their new home via our ‘From House to Home’ manual and our website. This includes tips to help customers save energy, reduce waste, maintain good internal air quality and encourage nature in their gardens. We give customers details on how to use and maintain their home’s environmental features through our Maintenance Guide and Touchpoint Portal.

What do our customers think?

During 2022, we carried out customer research to better understand the views of current and potential homebuyers in relation to climate change and environmental topics.

Our research suggests strong demand for low carbon living. It found that 48% of existing and potential new home customers consider the environmental performance of the home to be an important factor in choosing a house builder. Almost 60% reported being worried about climate change and three-quarters expected house builders to be prioritising energy efficiency.