News Article

The Tech must be ready if we are to be on Zero Carbon

Mat Shenton

Partner – Head of Rapleys New Homes

17th Apr 2024

By Mat Shenton, Partner and Head of New Homes at Rapleys and Jasmine Pidgley, Managing Director of SME developer Neulive

The last 12 months have seen no fewer than five major consultations on proposed policies that will impact new homes one way or another.  However, with conscientious housebuilders gearing up to deliver greener new builds, the delay of the Future Homes Standard consultancy due to a technical glitch spelled trouble. The standard is being brought in to ensure all new build homes are “zero carbon ready” from 2025.

The closing date for the Future Homes and Buildings Standards and new Home Energy Model (HEM) designed to underpin it was extended from the original closing date of March 6 to March 27. While it wasn’t a major delay, the last-minute glitches demonstrate how fickle some of the tech being used to record sustainability measures is, and calls into question the preparedness of the Government for such policy changes on the back of a delayed BNG and a much-delayed NPPF.

HEM is new software which has been designed to replace the longstanding SAP software used to calculate the designed energy performance of a building based on a range of assumptions – and is to be used to calculate a building’s performance against the FHS. According to Housing Today, the glitches could mean an overall delay to the consultation and the resulting policy of up to two years which means a reduction in expected guidance to an array of housebuilders, particularly the much-needed group of SMEs that are vying to prove their worth in an industry led by volume developers.

Many SME housebuilders are committed to building out efficient homes and investing in innovation that enriches both living and the local environment. Often this is harder to achieve for smaller housebuilders who need to invest in technology and supporting infrastructure that serves fewer properties – certainly the margins overall will be smaller. But many SME housebuilders are developing for more reasons than profit. To them, this delay will bring disappointment – as it has been for our client Neulive.

Neulive has embedded sustainability into the heart of its values and the developer is disappointed to hear of the delay in the consultation. These homes are in demand thanks to increasingly more conscientious purchasers, and those who want to keep energy bills down in the longer term. Our ultimate goal is to achieve carbon neutrality in the near future and that they always look to surpass the mandated standards. Their approach is to reduce their carbon footprint, enhance energy efficiency, conserve materials and resources, and prioritise the well-being of their customers. This should be supported – there are another 2,500 SME housebuilders in the UK alone and these values are key to the Government’s targets.

On that basis, Rapleys and Neulive believes that complex variables into a straightforward grading system is critical if homeowners are to truly understand the performance of genuinely sustainable homes. Today’s cost of living crisis affects us all and, by designing in the energy saving benefits that Neulive and others have embraced, we seek to lower the financial as well as environmental burden of our customers.

So, let’s hope the technology lives up to its promise, so that these innovative developers looking to do the right thing can forge ahead with the knowledge that the standards are being put in place and that the tech will underpin correct measurements…when it starts working again.

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Partner – Head of Rapleys New Homes

Mat Shenton