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Sustainability remains firmly on homebuilders’ agenda despite recessionary pressures

According to new NextGeneration sustainability ranking

NextGeneration, a ranking of the UK's 25 largest homebuilders, released today, proves that the sector has not let recessionary pressures nudge sustainability activities from the agenda.  The report, entitled ‘Laying Firm Foundations: UK homebuilders make progress in addressing sustainability assesses how effectively homebuilders are addressing fundamental sustainability issues related to the homes they build and their operations.

As the NextGeneration analysis shows, homebuilders have placed a strong focus on research and development and have set challenging commitments to ensure new building standards are met.  This is very encouraging and the drive for improved efficiency of product has been remarkable.
The Berkeley Group, Crest Nicholson and Miller Homes have all emerged as leaders in this year's benchmark, with the Berkeley Group showing a particularly strong performance ahead of its peers. Inspace Partnerships and Barratt Developments complete this year’s top five performing companies.

It has been two years since the housing market began to decline, and only recently have there been signs of recovery. In the meantime, the government has injected over £1bn into the sector to aid recovery, consulted on the definition of zero carbon and set up an independent organisation – the Zero Carbon Hub – to help guide the industry towards 20161. With a more compact timeline than ever, it is a critical period for the new build housing sector as it comes out of the recession.
A number of companies are being proactive in preparing their businesses for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Leading them are the six companies that have engaged with NextGeneration over the past three benchmarks: Barratt Developments, Berkeley Group, Crest Nicholson, Inspace Partnerships, Miller Homes and Taylor Wimpey. Together these companies are collectively:

• Building out to levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes and have been involved in some of the most innovative projects built in the UK to date.

• Measuring their operational construction waste generation and energy consumption, and committing to reduce their impact in these significant areas.

• Developing and implementing innovative customer engagement techniques and tools to communicate the benefits of more sustainable homes to purchasers.
Building on the progress made by the sector will be crucial for the government to meet its long-term targets for UK homebuilding. While the steps made in relation to improving product efficiency have been encouraging, a continued focus on addressing climate change must develop alongside other aspects of sustainability. This includes driving community-building and place-making through government policy and industry practice in order to achieve the vision of sustainable community development.

1. Homebuilders have continued to see the benefits and opportunities of research and development in order to understand the technical and commercial aspects of the Code for Sustainable Homes, but the industry must use this information to drive performance and understanding within the supply chain to ensure product development and product availability for mass-scale development.

2. To assist the industry and support the supply chain, government must invest in training programmes and skills development of current and future workers in the construction of sustainable buildings.

3. The homebuilder and government must work together with more urgency to educate and engage customers on the benefits of more sustainable housing to ensure the value of higher building standards is recognised and that the new generation of homes are desired by the purchasers.
With a carbon reduction roadmap for the housing sector to 2050, those companies entering the recovery with sustainability at the heart of their business practices will be better placed to take the opportunities and mitigate against the risks they face. Homebuilders will need to think innovatively and strategically about both new build and the existing stock in order to meet the challenges ahead. With a more compact timeline then ever, it is a critical period for the new build housing sector as it comes out of the recession.
Sir Bob Kerslake, Chief Executive, HCA said: “It is good to see that sustainability has remained high on the agenda for house builders, despite the economic downturn. A recession is no excuse to lower standards or reduce sustainability goals and at the HCA, we are pleased to be working with many of the housebuilders listed on developing some of the most innovative and sustainable homes in the country.”

Tony Pidgley, Chairman, The Berkeley Group said: “The principles of sustainability are embedded into our business practices both at strategic and project level and instinctively aligned with the fulfilment of our business objectives. We have remained steadfast in our commitment to sustainability despite recent economic challenges and this ethos has in turn contributed to our relatively strong financial position during the downturn. This will only become more important as a business driver, as customer demand for greener housing grows.”

Colin Butfield, Head of Campaigns at WWF-UK said: “Despite recession, homebuilders are demonstrating that sustainability is still high on the agenda. By investing in more sustainable homes that incorporate green technologies and reduce resource use, the industry is set to help the UK deliver a truly low carbon economy.”
Nina Jackson, Associate Director, Upstream Sustainability Services, Jones Lang LaSalle concluded:  “The Government has set a threefold challenge to the industry - to deliver more homes that are both more sustainable and more affordable. This challenge is only becoming more complex when set in the context of present market conditions. However, it is clear that sustainability, and in particular climate change, remains high on the national and international agendas. There is no doubt that the ability of UK home builders to respond to these challenges will be a critical factor in their future success. Next Generation is playing a crucial role in enabling homebuilders to identify and respond to key risks and opportunities and to encourage them to integrate sustainability issues into their strategic business planning and frameworks.”

Notes to editors
1 2016 is the Government’s target for all new homes to be zero carbon
NextGeneration was launched in 2006 to build on the success of the Insight Investment and WWF sustainability benchmarking exercises (undertaken in 2004 and 2005) and to expand their reach and ownership.
Set up as a multi-stakeholder initiative, NextGeneration aims to drive best practice on sustainability into the heart of the residential sector by encouraging the industry itself to embrace more sustainable house designs and delivery. It is intended to be a platform through which developers can both identify the sustainability-related risks they face and develop a good understanding of how best to address the related opportunities.
For the 2009 benchmark, NextGeneration has been supported and directed by WWF-UK, Insight Investment, Homes and Communities Agency, and Bank of Scotland - Corporate, all of whom sit on its Executive Committee. Upstream Sustainability Services at Jones Lang LaSalle acts as the secretariat to the initiative, carrying out the analysis for the benchmarking and delivering a range of services to NextGeneration members.