BTR roundup – developers aim for zero carbon and L&G expands its portfolio

21 December 2020 | Investment

Fast-growing Build to Rent company Moda Living has joined FOOTPRINT as a founding member, pledging its commitment to net zero carbon.

FOOTPRINT is described as an emerging movement of ‘innovative, like-minded individuals working collectively to discuss how the property industry can move towards a zero-carbon future’. Brighton & Hove MPs Peter Kyle – Labour’s Shadow Minister for Victims and Youth Justice – and Caroline Lucas, the well-respected former Green Party leader, have already pledged their support.

Alongside Moda, FOOTPRINT will aim to welcome forward-thinking authorities, developers, investors, designers, consultants and contractors to collaborate in order to find economic, sustainable solutions ‘that will shift UK planning policy and accelerate action against climate change’.   

As well as becoming a founding member, Moda will also take a seat on the advisory board alongside FOOTPRINT’S founders – architects Emily Day and Tim Pyne together with Sophie Law-Smith, the champion of Design Brighton. 

Moda has long made a big deal of its green and sustainable credentials, committed to enhancing the sustainability of its neighbourhoods ‘by applying long-term thinking into everything from choice of location and characteristics of the land’, as well as procurement and construction, the tech installed into its buildings, its operations and management, and the role it plays in the communities it invests in. 

The firm believes that a sustainable building should have a sustainable location, with all Moda sites being brownfield – where recycled land is repurposed.

It also aims to provide as many transport options as possible in its developments to lower car use, with footpaths, cycleways, cycle clubs, bike cafes, purpose-built storage facilities, car clubs so residents can minimise their environmental footprints, and electric car-charging hubs to future-proof its schemes. 

Recently, the company launched its innovative technology-enabled facilities management with tech firm Utopi, using IoT software to make its buildings ‘truly smart and sustainable’. The carbon footprint of facilities management can be lessened, it says, by remotely fixing issues (where possible) instead of sending an engineer to the site. 

Additionally, the company opts for low-energy white goods and appliances via Samsung, controlled with integrated technologies, and has an energy partner that assists with buying clean bulk energy, provided to residents at a discount.  

The firm will soon be adopting on-site energy production in photovoltaic solar panels and battery storage as it looks to push sustainable boundaries further with innovative renewable energy systems. 

“Leading BTR companies like Moda are making huge investments to regenerate communities across the UK, not only by building and operating high-quality homes to rent but in bringing people together with next-generation neighbourhoods. As long-term custodians of these accessible spaces, we need to ensure every community is vibrant, inclusive, and most importantly – sustainable,” Moda Living’s chief executive Johnny Caddick said. 

“We must address this challenge as an industry, not in silos, which is why we have joined FOOTPRINT, an organisation that aims to address property’s zero-carbon challenge.”

Emily Day, co-founder of FOOTPRINT, added: “As a brand, Moda understand that consumers are increasingly interested in the ethics of companies, and believe they have a responsibility to deliver. ESG is high on the agenda in 2021 and Johnny and his team understand that making positive changes requires commitment, a long-term vision, and substantial investment.”

Meanwhile, Peter Kyle – MP for Hove since May 2015 – said: “I met the Moda team during a planning application for a 564-home BTR neighbourhood in Sackville Road, a run-down part of my constituency. I see the scheme as key to regenerating this area. I was keen for Moda and Footprint to get together as…both will bring a massive job boost to Hove as well as signal to the UK that Brighton & Hove is serious about its 2030 carbon reduction target.”

Through its actions, Moda hopes to encourage other main players in the residential property sector to collaborate to make a meaningful contribution against climate change. The built environment is responsible for 40% of the world’s total energy and process-related emissions, and yet must achieve net-zero carbon by 2050 (under the government’s current plans). 

Lendlease on the road to zero carbon

Another major BTR player has announced its plans to eliminate the use of diesel on its construction sites in Europe and ensure that all the electricity the company procures is from clean, renewable sources.  

The international property and investments group, which has a number of UK BTR schemes in play in London, Manchester and York, has set itself challenging environmental targets, including a commitment to becoming a 1.5°C aligned company and achieving ‘Absolute Zero Carbon’ by 2040.

Last week, the company released its ‘Roadmap to Absolute Zero Carbon’, which sets out how the business will achieve those targets across Europe. 

The roadmap details some major interventions that Lendlease will make across its business in Europe. They include:

  • Eliminating the use of diesel on Lendlease construction sites and trialling alternative technologies and fuels.

  • Ensuring that all the electricity Lendlease procures is REGO-backed (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin certificates) from clean renewable sources (for example, solar, tidal and wind, not energy from waste).

  • Working in partnership with the Lendlease supply chain, from material extraction through to manufacturing and delivery, and delivering a sustainability-focused supply chain conference.

  • Developing a new generation of ‘green leases’ across the company’s commercial, retail and residential operations.

Lendlease’s chief executive in Europe, Neil Martin, said: “Setting targets is important, but it is how we deliver against those targets that really matters. In our roadmap to absolute zero we recognise that this is not going to be an easy task and that we don’t yet have all the answers, but it is vital that we take action and we are committed to doing so.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: “It’s really encouraging to see Lendlease set an absolute zero carbon target for 2040, and map out how it intends to achieve this stretching goal. Without all the solutions at our fingertips yet, we need the vision and determination of industry leaders to set the bar high and collaborate to deliver it.”

Legal & General expands its Build to Rent offer with second site in Birmingham

Leading BTR player Legal & General has announced, on behalf of its BTR and Access Development Partnership (a joint venture between Legal & General Capital and PGGM), that it has agreed the funding of a £100 million development site at Hockley Mills.

The site sits within the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area in Birmingham’s city centre. It marks the sixteenth BTR site – and the second in Birmingham – for the Legal & General BTR Fund, with the Hockley Mills development taking its total investment in the sector to £2.1 billion.

With Covid-19 driving a fundamental rethink of many areas of the real estate sector, BTR has largely continued to deliver a stable income return throughout the pandemic.

The lockdowns, restrictions, firebreaks and social distancing measures put in place across the UK in the last nine months to combat the virus have had a sizeable impact on economic activity, but rent collection levels for BTR have remained high, with Knight Frank estimating that some 95% of rent in the BTR sector was collected in Q2 – the height of the first lockdown.

What’s more, Legal & General argues that many BTR assets – including the site at Hockley Mills – are well-placed to benefit from some of the household behavioural trends and preferences emerging through the coronavirus pandemic. Namely an increasing need for homes with functional space to work, alongside convenient access to local cultural and leisure amenities. 

With a current population of 1.14 million, up by around 100,000 people in the last decade, the population growth of Birmingham is the third fastest in the UK, behind London and Bristol. If this recent trend continues, the population of Birmingham is anticipated to grow to 1.18 million in 2028 and up to 1.23 million by 2038 – demonstrating an increased need for high-quality housing. 

Located centrally, and adjacent to both rail and tram links, the Hockley Mills site is on the periphery of the Jewellery Quarter – ‘providing a strong micro location for BTR accommodation’. 

The scheme is set to deliver 395 apartments (one, two and three bedroom), alongside a new entrance to the Jewellery Quarter train station, 116 car parking spaces and 28,000 sq ft of flexible commercial space for retail, leisure and offices.  

Dan Batterton, senior fund manager of BTR at Legal & General, said: “In the space of the last few years, the BTR sector has really come into its own.  It has cemented its position in the UK as an asset class and successfully evolved away from the private rented sector.” 

He added: “Showing its resilience and relative counter cyclical nature of the residential sector, BTR has remained largely unaffected throughout the coronavirus pandemic, as occupancy, rent collection and demand has remained high.”     

Hannah Badger, associate in the residential capital markets team at Knight Frank, said: “During periods of economic stress, residential assets are seen as extremely attractive by investors, in part due to both their resilience and counter-cyclical rental performance. Our view remains that, long term, the current Covid-19 crisis may well act as a catalyst for an acceleration of institutional capital into the UK’s residential investment sector. Since March activity has remained strong as investors seek to increase their exposure in the UK market – indeed, recent Knight Frank research found that 77% of investors are looking to maintain or increase their investment plans in the near future.”

Legal & General was advised by Knight Frank, while construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine will act as the developer at Hockley Mills.

This post has originally been featured in Property Investor Today.