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It is almost impossible to escape phrases such as climate change, global warming, carbon emissions, carbon footprint, depleting natural fossil fuel reserves and energy efficiency. 2018 figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that the property industry contributes 65.9 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Approximately 18% of the UK’s total emissions.

How people live and work in buildings contributes to these figures. Legalisation introduced a minimum Energy Performance Certificate rating for letting both residential and commercial property, encouraging landlords to invest in efficiency. However, the construction industry also plays a key role. Poor insulation and the use of carbon intensive traditional building materials like concrete, steel and bricks are all contributors. The Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP recently said: “Building new homes isn’t just about bricks and mortar, I want to ensure everyone – including developers – do their bit to protect the environment and give the next generation beautiful, environmentally friendly homes that local communities can support…That’s why I am requiring carbon emissions are cut by up to 80% from 2025 for all new homes”.

The National Design Guide, published on the 1st October 2019, discusses the need to construct eco-friendly, sustainable and efficient homes; Near Zero Energy standards; the Future Home Standards consultation which closes in January 2020; proposals like prohibiting new builds connecting to the gas grid after 2025. With many countrywide building programmes underway or under consideration to help ease the housing shortage, will the industry move away from traditional building materials to reduce its CO2 footprint?

If we only look at concrete – it is arguably one of planet Earth’s most utilized, integral man-made building materials in existence. The whole process of quarrying and processing the raw materials then transporting it across the globe is hugely carbon intensive. There are eco-friendly alternatives - hemp crete, ferrock (use of recycled materials like steel dust), fly ash (a by product of burning coal), timber crete (a mix of sawdust and concrete) or mycelium (derived from the roots of fungi and mushrooms). Likewise, there is an ever-growing generation of clean technology like ground source heat pumps, bore hole technology, solar panels, rainwater recycling systems, thermal windows and alternative natural building materials that can be employed to build, redevelop or renovate homes.

But often build projects of any size need to be financially viable for everyone in the chain – manufactures, suppliers, developers, consumers, Governments and local councils. It is feasible that for a time a hybrid of new and old methods and materials will be used to balance the costs against the ultimate emission reduction goal. There is little doubt that the property industry has its part to play in climate change.

Watch out for our future articles on how it impacts lettings, sales and block management.

Rachel North

Operations Manager


Rachel has 20+ years experience in Estate Agency. She joined Alexandre Boyes at the start of 2014 having worked for JD Wood, Savills, Knight Frank, and as Head of Property Management for Strutt & Parker’s London Division for 9+ years. In 2019 she moved from Head of Property Management to Operations Manager.

Much of her spare time is spent with Merlin, our Lettings Labrador in Yorkshire and the Scottish Highlands. She climbs munros, hikes and does Pilates for fun.