As ever here at Hartwyn, we do our best to keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry to bring you the latest information on eco-friendly builds.

A recent article from the Guardian caught our eye this month. It talks about how eco-housing in the UK is no longer the domain of weirdos like us. Great!

Normalisation

It’s what we’ve been talking about the whole time. We love building things for people and you can see from our previous blog post that we’ve focussed on that goal over the past year. Hartwyn is now first and foremost about facilitating and empowering as many people as possible to build naturally. Simple as that.

It’s happening, too. The article discusses eco-housing in Leeds where a forward-thinking developer has built 60 low-impact terraced homes, assembled offsite and constructed lightning-fast to fantastic standards. Exactly what should be happening across the UK.

It also mentions that in Exeter, they’ve been quietly building Passivhaus social housing for the last decade. Who knew?! It made me wonder though, why not in Oxfordshire, London, Birmingham? The way I see it, the reasons are twofold:

Why isn't it standard practice?

I have a sneaking suspicion that more affluent parts of the country have stringent planning laws and are reluctant to disrupt the classic look of the great British countryside, regardless of the environmental impact.

The vast majority of architects I’ve spoken to this past year echo that sentiment. Planners are stuck in their ways and averse to change. Many have little or no training and have simply moved sideways from a place on the local council. What this essentially means is that only the loudest voice in the room is heard; the best people at meddling and curtain-twitching set the policy.

Secondly, this excerpt speaks volumes:

“It has been the landlords with a long-term interest in the wellbeing of their tenants, and the longevity of their building stock, who are forging ahead with low-energy housing.”
Increased eco-housing in the UK could help provide sustainable homes for families.

We’ve long been aware of, and are appalled by, the standards of an alarming number of new-build developments across the country. Not only are they missing all kinds of embodied energy targets, but a lot of them flounder on performance and show worrying signs of not lasting long either.

The focus on profit and shareholder benefits results in corners being cut. Businesses must be run of course, but they need to be sustainable too, especially in the present-day economy where big businesses can become huge and the smaller ones scrabble to stay afloat, often reducing their customer diversity and product ranges.

However you slice it, businesses that place inhabitants further down the hierarchy are inevitably demonstrating this in their product output. It’s possible to make a decent living and still be responsible.

When businesses put profits before sustainability, we all suffer. Photo by MayoFi on Unsplash

Scalability and inclusivity

My feelings on the subject aside, the thrust of this article was to highlight the fact that this way of building is scalable; we should be creating whole rows of eco homes rather than one-offs. Hear hear, we say.

Lots of other thresholds are being crossed by technology all the time. Cob is being heralded as the new concrete, direct replacements for Kingspan are in development and perhaps we can hope that carbon and durability regulations industry-wide will make even the ‘off-the-shelf’ bigger developers up their game.

So, in conclusion? This is amazing. We can see the curve picking up. But it isn’t enough. We can, and we must, do more to encourage eco-housing in the UK. Building sustainably and healthily is still the domain of the affluent, early adopter, and we all need this to change.