Sustainable property development

Guest article by Keith Robinson, who has 20 years’ experience as a property developer, creating his own portfolio and advising on the many aspects of property management. Now retired, Keith shares his knowledge with 24Housing. Connect with Keith on LinkedIn: @keith-robinson-property

Eco home with solar panels.

How can developers become more eco-conscious?

Environmental factors are becoming increasingly important, with the rising pressure on businesses to consider the climate crisis. And the property market is no exception. Developers are being pushed to consider the environment when designing and building, as well as how they operate from a business perspective. 

In this article, we’ll explore why sustainability in the property development industry is so important and some of the ways that developers can work in a more eco-conscious way to benefit clients and the planet. 

A new home fronted by solar panels.

Why do developers need to think about the environment?

In the UK, developers have a duty to consider the needs of not only the current generation but also future ones. One way that the industry is reinforcing this is with the Environment Act 2021, which means that developers can face hefty fines if they fail to take the environment into account during a project. 

This means using sustainable materials, installing renewable energy systems, and ensuring that buildings are designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. Green construction is a top priority for the Environment Act 2021, so that future buildings are better for the planet and more environmentally conscious overall. 

Many developers have already taken note of the requirements and begun implementing eco-friendlier practices in their projects. But going forward, more developers will be made aware of the Act and need to start taking action to make their projects more environmentally friendly and sustainable – the outcome if they don’t could be substantial fines or other penalties. 

But beyond the legal considerations, developers should be considering the needs and demands of their customers. As more people learn about the threats of the climate crisis, the demand for sustainable properties, both in the residential and commercial sectors, will rise. The industry has already noted a shift in this regard and the need for eco-friendly properties will only increase further as time goes on. 

Refurbishing old properties is more environmentally-friendly than building new houses.

Work with what you’ve got

Building a new property from scratch requires vast amounts of materials and that can have a negative impact on the environment, not just in sourcing these materials but also in their transportation. 

Buying an existing property and refurbishing it can help to reduce these material requirements considerably, while still producing an eco-friendly building in the end. Online Mortgage Advisors give the following example of when a developer may choose to buy a property at auction and uses bridging finance to renovate.

Installing renewable energy systems such as solar power or biomass boilers or installing more skylights to reduce the need for artificial lighting. It’s an appealing option in the eyes of both developers and investors, and consumers. 

Go green with materials and suppliers

For developments that require new materials, choosing sustainably can help to bring down the environmental impact of a project. Consider vetting how the materials required have been sourced – for example, choose wood from suppliers that replace trees or use recycled materials.

The likes of recycled steel, bamboo, and pre-cast concrete should be made more of a focus for sustainable developments over the coming years. Developers should also pay attention to the suppliers they use, and choose companies based on their environmental impact or use of equipment such as hybrid vehicles. 

An electric car charging point.

Prioritise eco-conscious features

Developers are quickly recognising the demand for eco-friendly, sustainable homes, not just from buyers but also from those looking to rent. It’s a trend that’s been fuelled by the younger generation who want home features and services such as smart thermostats, electric car charging stations, energy-efficient appliances, and recycling services.

The more of these features that developers can install into a build or a property design, the more appealing the end result is going to be when it goes on the market, and the better it’s going to be in the long-term for the planet. 

Cycle paths and pedestrian walkways are desirable features on new developments.

Include cycle routes in development plans

Sustainability isn’t just about what goes on inside a property, but also the exterior of the development too. Developers can encourage more sustainable practices by including cycling or walking routes, along with other green infrastructure, in developments to help people live or work in a more environmentally friendly way.

The more changes that developers and architects can include like this, prior to construction beginning, the easier it will be for them to be built, rather than needing to retrofit them at a later date. It creates a sustainable property that’s built for future generations. 

Green roofs incorporated into modern building designs.

Greenify the structure

Brick and concrete, surrounded by tarmac drives, might be what we’re used to, but they don’t do the planet any favours or encourage any biodiversity. When creating a development, whether it’s building on what’s already in place or starting anew, developers need to think about how they can encourage ecosystems to flourish. 

From green roofs, trees, and wild lawns to adding green walls to the outsides of buildings to help insect life thrive, there are various ways to support flora and fauna and help produce cleaner air in the process. 

Insulating a property prevents heat loss.

Don’t disregard insulation 

Creating a sustainable, eco-friendly development has the added benefit of creating a property that’s cheaper to run for tenants. Insulation is an effective way to create a warm property that requires less energy to heat and also prevents heat loss through the likes of the roof and walls.

It’s an expensive thing to fix later on, so factoring insulation into the design and development plans as early as possible is a must if you’re taking environmental factors into account. As a plus, choose sustainable materials for your insulation that minimise the damage to the planet even more.

Final thoughts

Going green with such an energy and resource-intensive industry such as property development isn’t something you can do overnight. But there are changes we can start to make now for a better future, whether that’s sustainable methods and materials, adapting to eco-friendly workarounds, or rethinking who developers work with in order to bring the carbon footprint of a project down. The benefits are widespread and will affect developers and their customers. 

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