Climate Change statement
For as long as I can remember, I have been a strong advocate of sustainability and the environment and in my personal life, I have tried to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible. I think it should go without saying that sustainability should be at the heart of every company’s mission in the 21st Century.
So, instead of giving another statement about climate change that could be written by AI, I’m going to give some background as to what we’re actually trying to do about it and to explain why I chose self-build / custom build as the mechanism to bring about change.
I have always believed that capitalism (the pursuit of making money) is cause neutral, and can be used for good or for bad. Capitalism is like water in a bucket. Regulation acts as the walls of the bucket and we as consumers act as the gravitational pull. Change the size of the bucket (regulation) and tilt the bucket (demand) one way or the other, and you can make the water (money) flow to any part of the bucket you wish.
If we want to protect the environment, there are only two real levers: regulation and consumer demand.
Apart from all my work with NaCSBA, I have no real control over regulation and leave that to the politicians. Instead, I spend my time trying to create the gravitational pull to build sustainable homes.
I started my career building beautifully multi award-winning designed homes with Solidspace. It’s a fact that sustainability measures cost more to install and therefore the house has to be sold for more to make the project economically feasible. I was loathe to sell our homes for more, so I gave people the choice – do you want a house for £X or do you want us to install all these environmental benefits (solar power etc) for £Y. On every occasion, my buyers went for the house without the environmental benefits. We ran surveys that put sustainable features at the bottom of the list of desirable features. For all the talk, consumers were unwilling to put their money where their mouths were.
What’s worse, is that even if customers did want to spend more on a house with more environmental benefits, the banks would not give them any more money. The banks and the valuers use a ‘comparative’ valuation methodology which means they lend you the money to buy your home based on what a similarly sized home is worth. They don’t up-value your house because you’ve spent an extra £50,000 on triple glazing and more insulation and so the industry is set up to reward the ‘lowest common denominator’.
Sadly, in house-building, the way that finance is set up means that it’s a race to the bottom.
In 2007 I was lucky enough to get planning permission for my future home. When it came to my choices, I went way beyond building regulations at the time to almost passivhaus standards. I had high levels of insulation, very high airtightness, good thermal mass, solar PV, solar thermal, rainwater harvesting, low flow showers and triple glazing.
I realised that when I had control in the say of my home, I had every incentive to pay more to put in the environmental benefits – after all, I would be the one to benefit from the lower bills. After some further research, it was clear that I was not alone. When people self-build their own home, they also spend considerably more on sustainability features.
My hypothesis is that the more people who build their own homes, the more sustainable our homes will become. At that point, the banks may then start to value homes with more environmental benefits which then will create the incentive (the tilting of the bucket) to create more environmentally-friendly homes.
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