With climate change seemingly near the top of everyone’s agenda at the moment, is the UK property sector doing anything to create a more sustainable built environment?
The simple answer is: yes. Take a look below for a snapshot of the ways in which the built environment in the UK is changing for the better.
Future Homes Standard
- The Housing Secretary recently unveiled a green standard for new build homes, aiming to tackle climate change while keeping bills low. The “Future Homes Standard” will see fossil fuel heating systems banned from new homes by 2025 and replaced with clean technology, such as solar panels.
- A National Design Guide has also been published, which provides local authorities with a blueprint for delivering homes that local communities need in a sustainable way. A National Model Design Code is also due to be published in the New Year, setting out a model for promoting the better design of homes across the UK which will include guidance on materials to be used in construction.
- Pocket Parks aim to turn unloved and derelict areas into new green spaces, and are most commonly seen in urban areas. Projects are usually led by community groups in partnership with a local authority. There are currently more than 100 Pocket Parks across the 26 London boroughs alone. The Pocket Parks programme was initially launched in 2016, and the government has just confirmed further new funding for another round of the Pocket Parks programme.
- The demand for green spaces is transforming city development all over the world. “Urban Greening” aims to help clean our air, reduce the risk of flooding and keep a city cool in the summer months. It involves covering roofs and walls in plants and street trees, with Pocket Parks popping up in between buildings. With three million more people expected to live in London by 2050 the Mayor of London wants to significantly increase the area of green cover in the built environment, and urban greening helps with this. As part of this, the London Environment Strategy aims to ensure that more than 50% of London will be green by 2050 and the city’s tree canopy cover increases by 10%.
- From 1 April 2018, landlords of commercial buildings within the scope of the minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) Regulations have not been permitted to renew existing tenancies or grant new tenancies if their building has less than the minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E (unless an exemption is registered). After 1 April 2023, landlords must not continue to let premises which have an EPC of E or less (unless an exemption is registered).
- However, the above is all set to change again. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has published a consultation on commercial MEES standards. Simply, the Government wants to increase the minimum standard to a B rating by 2030. With this, the Government suggests that energy bill savings in 2030 would be £1billion!
- This isn’t some special breed of lease, but rather a standard form lease which includes additional clauses for the management and improvement of the environmental performance of a building by both landlord and occupier (usually only applying to commercial properties). So, what are some things which Green Lease clauses may refer to?
- EPC certificates;
- waste management;
- water efficiency;
- data sharing and metering; and
- co-operation (which is key).
- The Better Buildings Partnership has also published a Green Lease Toolkit to try and encourage the use of Green Leases.
All in all, the above snapshot proves that the UK property sector is trying to combat climate change one small step at a time.
The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. Almost half of this is from energy used in buildings (eg plug loads and cooking) and infrastructure (eg roads and railways) that has nothing to do with their functional operation.