Going green: shift to sustainable construction plus Scottish Passivhaus

12 March 2021 | Investment

The study analysed Google search data over the past two years for different construction methods and building materials. Amongst the building materials, most of the top spots went to sustainable alternatives to traditional concrete, such as rammed earth.

Despite its many strengths and uses, concrete’s harmful effects on the environment can’t be disputed. So much so, if global concrete production were considered a country, it would count for 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions, coming third only to the US and China, the two biggest emitters.

The eco-friendly shift from the public and, in turn, development firms, construction companies and investors comes alongside the government’s £134 million pledge to build back better and greener, as well as moves by some of the industry’s biggest names.

As an example, sustainability-focused not-for-profit organisation Changing Streams has recently partnered with professional services firm Arup, aiming to work alongside their experts and identify where plastic waste can be reduced in construction.

Meanwhile, global construction and consultancy firm Mace has also pledged to reduce single-use plastics in its ‘Time to Act’ campaign.

Top 10 Eco-Friendly Construction Styles Increasing Most in Popularity in 2020

1.            Regenerative Building Design – (600.00%)

2.            Regenerative Architecture – (212.24%)

3.            Eco-Friendly Architecture – (158.72%)

4.            Eco-Friendly Construction – (154.29%)

5.            Zero Carbon Building – (142.29%)

6.            Eco-Friendly House Construction – (141.67%)

7.            Sustainable Property Development – (134.48%)

8.            Eco Houses – (133.68%)

9.            Passive Housing – (112.94%)

10.         Sustainable Construction – (112.57%)

Gian-Carlo Grossi, managing director at Roofing Megastore, said: “As Covid-19 brought our physical health to the forefront, we also had a chance to consider the health of the world around us. Last year showed Brits turning clearly towards green alternatives to traditional construction methods and materials, as we all seek to create a healthier, more sustainable built environment moving into 2021 and beyond.”

A wake-up call for property developers?

As the above research shows, British homeowners have truly kicked the move towards greener solutions into gear.

According to to the Roofing Megastore team, this trend is only likely to build momentum, which means property developers and builders will have to catch up quickly if they want to get ahead of greater consumer desire for sustainable living.

The increasing awareness of green issues in recent years – aided by David Attenborough’s wildly popular nature television programmes and the passionate, if sometimes controversial, activism of the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Great Thunberg – has fed through to the wider public.

These progressive attitudes towards the environment were echoed in a UN Development Programme poll taken last year, in which 81% of Britons agreed there was a global climate emergency.

Roofing Megastore’s data shows a very clear trend of much greater interest in sustainable construction moving into the future, which the firm believes is only going to grow.

Most strikingly, perhaps, is that searches for ‘Regenerative Building Design’ have grown by a considerable 600%, as a result of Britons looking to learn more about the way the built environment can be used to reverse damage done to the ecosystem, and even have a net-positive impact.

You can see the full research, which includes broader trends in the construction industry, such as natural insulation and a moment in the sun for synthetic roof tiles, by clicking here. Other green choices that are also experiencing a rise in popularity include energy-saving windows, eco-friendly insulation and cedar shingles.

Sustainability is gold – new eco-friendly development in Scotland

Roma Finance says it is ‘delighted’ to have funded the development of sustainable Passivhaus houses in Scotland, believing that innovation is fundamental in the current climate.

Passivhaus buildings ‘provide a high level of occupant comfort’ while using very little energy for heating and cooling. They are ‘built with meticulous attention to detail, rigorous design and construction’, according to principles developed by the Passivhaus Institute, and can be ‘certified through an exacting quality assurance process’.

The designs have long been common in Northern Europe and Roma Finance says it is thrilled to be part of the project to promote them in Scotland.

Avongreen Abodes, a Roma Finance customer, has built the first commercially available Passivhaus project in South Lanarkshire – the council area which borders Scotland’s second city, Glasgow – that has reached the Gold level of ‘Sustainability’.

The site in South Lanarkshire had planning for four x 4-bedroom detached houses with a GDV (Gross Development Value) of £2.5 million. When Roma took on the application for Avongreen Abodes, the first property had already been sold and the remaining build was comprised of two wind and watertight new-build homes and a fully serviced plot with south-facing views over a county park.

The low-energy build boasts some ‘exciting technology’ designed to make the houses as self-sufficient as possible. This includes:

  • High specification triple-glazing and high levels of insulation to the windowframes

  • High levels of airtightness

  • Mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery

  • Passive solar shading to prevent overheating

  • Solar thermal technologies, turning sunlight into heat instead of power

  • Super-insulation to significantly reduce the heat transfer through the walls, roof and floor compared to conventional buildings

  • An on-site borehole to provide clean water and a wastewater recycling plant

  • Acoustic floorboards for additional sound-proofing

When the case came to Roma Finance, Avongreen Abodes had already completed the sale of the first house for £610,000 – the target price they were seeking.

Another two houses were at that point wind and watertight and the final plot had all services connected, but the borrower needed to exit their development loan onto a more cost-effective bridging loan to complete the remaining houses for sale.

The second property then sold with a sale price of £620,000, with Roma Finance lending £550,000 to redeem the existing development loan and provide further funding to complete the remainder of the build.

The firm said the valuation was not at all straightforward, with the valuer unable to support the sales prices, because there was no direct comparison with them being Passivhaus builds.

“This may have posed a problem for many lenders, however, we were able to ‘take a view’ on the case and make a good decision for the customer in the name of innovation,” Roma Finance said.

Nick Jones, commercial director at the lender, said: “At Roma Finance we pride ourselves on leading the charge and being forward-thinking. These houses are full of innovation, look fantastic and truly are properties of the future. Avongreen Abodes have really set the bar high for sustainable properties moving forward and I am really excited to see what they come up with next.”

He added: “We are thrilled to have been able to fund this build and hope to support more sustainable properties in the future.”

Denise Bryson, director of Avongreen Abodes, commented: “A huge thank you to all of the team at Roma Finance for their excellent customer service, advice and help. The interest rates with our previous lending company were absolutely eye-watering and we could no longer continue to work with them. Roma Finance helped us to navigate our way through a refinance with much more competitive interest rates.”

She added: “They were also genuinely interested in our exciting new Passivhaus development and our commitment to low-energy sustainable housing, it was not just all about the figures!”

Consortium green lights first phase of eco-community in Utrecht

Continuing the theme of sustainable housing, we head overseas, to the Netherlands, one of the leading nations when it comes to eco-friendly, innovative homes and developments.

Round Hill Capital, a  leading real estate developer, investor and asset manager, recently signed an agreement with the municipality of Utrecht – birthplace of Marco Van Basten and famous for its medieval centre, tree-lined canals and well-regarded university – and other landowners to create a new city district within the Merwede Canal Zone. 

By signing the agreement, the parties have committed to a long-term cooperation with each other and the neighbourhood. The plans are set to include a new community of 6,000 new homes, with over 3,000 of these affordable, and various supporting amenities. 

The agreement is a significant milestone for the development, purchased by Round Hill Capital in 2018 as a joint project with real estate developers G&S Vastgoed and Boelens de Gruyter. It allows for design plans to proceed for the first phase of construction of 1,075 new ‘highly sustainable’ homes.

Going green: shift to sustainable construction plus Scottish Passivhaus

Formerly an industrial site, located between the avenues Koningin Wilhelminalaan and Beneluxlaan, the total area (240,000 square metres) allows for 6,000 residential units, offering space for more than 12,000 Utrecht residents to live and work in the district.

The area has been designed for ‘harmonious living’ in the middle of the city, with sustainability a key priority. Once complete, the public area and landscape will be carpark-free, and will prioritise public transport, cycling and pedestrian access.

Merwede will also host a range of amenities, including restaurants, a sports hall, primary and secondary schools and community halls, in an attempt to make sure that it becomes a very attractive area for a large, varied audience.

The rental and owner-occupied homes are located right beside the new park, Merwedepark, and along the Merwede Canal. Rental properties will be offered in the social, middle rent and free sector segment, and all homes have been designed to be both high-quality and highly sustainable.

This post has originally been featured in Property Investor Today.