All posts from: February 2010
What would John Belcher, former chief executive of Anchor Trust, have done if his £111,000 bonus had been linked to his performance on sustainability?
He might have spent some of his salary splashing out on eco-bling for the housing association’s headquarters, or offsetting his carbon emissions. If he had learned, as members of the management board at Dutch life sciences firm DSM did this week, that half his bonus would depend on meeting targets such as cutting carbon emissions, we could have seen Anchor Trust draped in photovoltaic panels and recycling every last post-it note.
Mr Belcher won’t be featuring on Inside Housing’s chief executive salary this year, but his successor and other chief executives might find DSM’s announcement that it would be focusing on ‘people, profits, planet’ to be just the challenge they need to embark on the full-scale retrofitting of their stock that needs to take place if we are going to hit our target for an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.
It’s quite difficult not to envy the tenants of Skelton Road in Diss. I recently visited these ‘Passiv-type’ homes developed by Saffron Housing Trust, and was very impressed.
It was when Heather, who lives in one of the homes with her three young children, told me that she had only turned her heating on six times since moving into the house in June 2009, that I grew a little jealous. Still more when I discovered her warm and welcoming kitchen was so cosy not because she had been blasting out the underfloor heating before we arrived, but because the whole house is insulated like a thermos flask.
In fact, Heather couldn’t remember how long ago it was that she last switched the heating on. Outside, the snow was thick on the ground, and my own kitchen had held all the warmth of a tomb that morning, but the homes at Skelton Road weren’t giving any of their heat away.
Saffron built the homes in 2009, and they are among the first ‘Passiv-type’ homes built by a housing association in England. As well as fitting an air-source heat pump, and water-saving devices, the trust also gave the new tenants a little present when they moved into the homes. They planted up a vegetable garden with crops that were approaching harvest when Heather’s family moved in.
The idea was to encourage eco-friendly living by cutting down on food miles and providing seasonal crops, which is a fantastic idea. After all, it’s all very well sitting in a house so warmly insulated that you don’t even need to wear a thick jumper, but if you’re eating peas from Kenya and tomatoes grown in Peru, you’ll still create a fairly hefty carbon footprint. And even though the weather that day was horrible, Heather was still harvesting fat leeks and enormous cauliflowers from her patch.
I left Heather’s house encouraged to see a landlord promoting all-round sustainable living practices to its tenants, even if I was a little reluctant to leave that warm, bright kitchen.
This week the government announced funding for 600 new green homes as part of the first wave of eco-towns.
Apparently, these ‘pioneering’ developments will be built to the ‘toughest ever environmental standards’, and will serve as show homes to entice the public into green living. Nearly a third of the homes will be affordable.
When I asked the Communities and Local Government department what these incredibly tough standards would be, I was told the new homes will only need to meet level four of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which all new build projects in the next twelve months are driving towards anyway.
A spokeswoman said: ‘All homes will need to be built to tough green standards but it is the infrastructure and design of the pioneering new eco-towns as a whole that will offset emissions to achieve zero carbon – such as renewable energy sources, more greener spaces, improved public transport and all facilities within 10 minutes’ walking distance.’
Even if these demonstrator homes are streets ahead of others in their neighbourhoods, it seems pointless to build something as an exemplar when the industry is already going above and beyond that. Work is already taking place on the first large-scale code six developments, which would surely provide far more inspiration for those wanting to take up green lifestyles.