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Positive views on eco-homes

publication date: May 23, 2008
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green houseA report (‘Eco-homes, economically sustainable?’) published by Knight Frank LLP and EC Harris LLP reveals an optimistic assessment of attitudes towards eco-home development in the UK. 

Recognising that although the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) is voluntary at present it is already having a positive impact on attitudes towards property development and purchase. However the report also identifies concern among developers about both the cost levels and current availability of technological solutions aimed at achieving the government’s zero carbon targets by 2016, especially in the context of apartment schemes. 

Despite this and the survey showing that practical considerations such as price, proximity to schools and privacy were of most importance to house purchase, environmental issues were a significant issue with 43% of respondents. 

This change in attitude in favour of ecomeasures was more accentuated for future property purchase with 76% claiming energy efficiency to be an important factor. In fact 96% of respondents considered low running costs a significant factor for their property with 58% recognising the cost saving benefits of renewable energy sources as being important. 

The report also shows that households who were installing energy efficient mechanism in their homes at present tend to opt for more traditional methods such as double glazing and roof insulation over more technological solutions. This is balanced by the finding that 87% said they would not oppose retro-fitting of further energy efficient features if such measures became compulsory and 86% receptive to the offer of more information on the subject of eco-measures.

Investing in high quality design is also seen as an important factor in the future. In this respect the prime development market, especially in London, has been a leading area for eco-experimentation in recent years and the report’s authors cite Morpheus Development’s Clareville Street in London SW7 as ‘a good example in a prime market setting’. 

They also point to a mixed use development outside London, Urban Splash’s Lake Shore development in Bristol, as an example of how modern design and construction methods reflect ‘the emergence of a distinctive ecofriendly niche market.’ 

This focus on ‘strongly designed products combined with energy efficiency have led to pricing premiums in some schemes’ the report says. As a cautionary note it adds that once eco-homes become the norm, as required by the CSH, developers will face the challenge of how to maintain the bold architecture, design and build quality in future projects. However, with the survey showing 59% of respondents ‘would be willing to pay a premium for an eco-home’ the rewards are there. 

Liam Bailey, head of residential research at Knight Frank commented: “Over the next decade we expect to see the three strands of eco-awareness, design quality and place making, combining in terms of market placement – the key for developers is to ensure they are able to capitalise on these themes. However in the short-term the slow down in the housing market is causing many, especially first time buyers to put affordability above environmental priorities.” 

Mark Farmer, head of private residential at EC Harris said: “The real challenge for the industry is how to deliver the required step change towards zero carbon by 2016 within the parameters of technical and financial viability. 

Despite the likely increase in market sentiment towards eco friendly residential product and the ability for developers to drive value, the current cost premiums for compliance are not sustainable in real terms. Innovation and supply chain diversification will be key to creating a viable platform for delivery of zero carbon homes in the future.” 

Key Highlights:
  • 87% would not oppose retro fitting of green technology for houses
  • 86% want more information on impact of eco-measures in the home
  • 59% are willing to pay a premium for an eco-home
  • 43% consider environmentally features important to current purchase 

NAEA member saves £1,000s with Eco-Friendly Car Club 

One NAEA member has saved £7,000-a-year from their fleet car costs by using a revolutionary new car club scheme. Bonett’s Estate Agents, which is based in Brighton has renounced staff “pool” cars and chosen to use City Car Club pay-as-you-go scheme instead. 

The car club has cars parked all around Brighton on special parking bays which Bonett’s staff can book for less than £5-an-hour at a moment’s notice on the internet at by phone or directly from the cars. Paul Bonett who owns the firm, estimates that the service has saved him around £1,700 every year for each fleet car he has replaced because he no longer has to pay for maintenance, road tax, depreciation, parking permits or petrol. 

Paul said: “I have been using the service for two years and it’s perfect for a city centre estate agency. In total I have saved about £7,000 a year by switching to City Car Club. We used to have three or four staff fleet cars and it was an unnecessary drain on our resources. 

“And it wasn’t just the money aspect, there was all the hassle of sorting out maintenance, MOTs, car cleaning, parking permits, insurance and tax every year.” 

Joining the club is very simple and normally takes 48 hours. There is a one-off joining fee of £50 per user, but for staff with five users or more the membership is discounted to £25 per driver. And he added: “It could not be simpler, I can usually book it out literally as I need to leave the office, taking no more than a minute to go online and sort out the booking. And when we return, there is always a bay in which to park the car! We used to waste hours every week just looking for a parking space.” 

“I love it, not getting stressed about company cars and not clogging up our already busy streets.” The service is used by Bonett’s staff when going to property viewings and for other day to day tasks. There are 28 cars around Brighton, set to grow to over 40 by year end, all available to book by the agency. Each staff member’s usage is logged and itemised in a monthly statement. 

As well as the cost savings there are environmental benefits and Bonett’s aims to reduce the number of staff coming to work by car. The agency was impressed by the car club’s CO2 reduction profile. It is estimated that every City Car replaces 20 privately owned cars and members reduce mileage by 35% after joining and increase their non car transport modes by 40%. On that basis the 28 City Car Club cars that are available to Bonett’s in Brighton will save around 224 Tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of 59 flights to Australia. 

Bonett’s Estate Agents are one of many estate agents who have switched to City Car Club’s service. In addition to the Brighton club, there are City Car Clubs in London, Bath, Bristol, Portsmouth, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Norwich and Camberley.