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Industry insights: a developer’s point of view on building solutions in a low-carbon economy

To support the move towards net zero, new homes will need to produce significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Since heating and hot water represent an important share of the energy consumption in these buildings, it’s vital that property developers and suppliers are on the same page. As a provider of sustainable indoor climate comfort solutions we therefore regularly put our ear to the ground. This time we had the pleasure of speaking to 3 representatives from UK housebuilder Crest Nicholson. We gladly share some insights from our interesting talk about continuous balancing, building solutions in a low-carbon economy and the added value of sustainability within the trade.
Building solutions in a low-carbon economy

Building solutions as a joined responsibility

Ian Johnson, Tobias Jones and Mark Kershaw work at Crest Nicholson, where they put their heads together on the combination of procurement and sustainability. As a developer who builds between 2,000 to 3,000 homes per year, they are very much aware of the impact they can make on our building stock. “That is why we are now doing a full carbon assessment of our different standard house types”, says Tobias Jones, Group Sustainable Procurement Manager. “A very useful exercise that uncovers internal improvement opportunities but also highlights the fact that the move towards net zero emissions is one we need to do together.”

Mark Kershaw, Group Head of Sustainability, explains: “At Crest Nicholson we have a clear road map for cutting emissions. While making strides in reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions, the real challenge lies in our scope 3 emissions that make up around 99% of our carbon footprint. We aim to address this challenge through meeting our science-based targets and we are committed to achieving net-zero across our value chain by 2045. When suppliers such as Purmo Group share details about their commitments, set targets and provide environmental product declarations, it supports us in making informed decisions for carbon reduction initiatives.

Careful balancing exercise

Sustainability is not the only factor that comes into play when a developer such as Crest Nicholson selects its products. “There are of course also building regulations we need to comply with to be able to build our houses. Moreover, inflation is currently quite high so we can’t ignore the commercial side of it all”, says Ian Johnson, Group Procurement Director. “It’s about balancing all aspects and there is always a fine line between ticking the sustainability box as well as the commercial one.”

Tobias adds: “In cases when there is not much difference on the commercial side, the sustainability questions provide the added value that help decisions get made. If a supplier then has better credentials in that area, we can feed that back into the supply chain. But equally, if a supplier is commercially there but not ticking all the sustainability boxes, then we’ll give them that feedback and try to work together to level up.”

Transition towards a low-carbon economy

Mark points out that in the long run not taking action is not an option. It can even be a potential risk from a supply perspective. “Carbon taxation on certain materials, such as steel, will significantly increase and if you’re not taking steps to decarbonise, that could potentially impact Crest. As we transition to a low-carbon economy, it’s important for us to understand those risks.” At Purmo we are very much aware of this and have recently taken steps to source 140,000 tonnes of green steel. This kind of steel will enable the reduction of CO2 emissions by up to 95% compared to traditional steelmaking powered by coal.

Read more about Purmo’s green steel purchase agreement

The importance of total solutions

In terms of total solutions for heating and cooling, the experience at Crest Nicholson is two-fold. On the customer side, they see a greater interest in the running costs and energy efficiency of the homes, rather than the carbon that has gone into it. This highlights that customers value the energy savings that can be realised by using the right products.

Again regulations are mentioned as an influencing factor. Mark says: “The Future Homes Standard in 2025 will mandate electric heating, so we will see a transition away from gas boilers towards air source heat pumps.” At Purmo we offer all elements needed to optimise the efficiency of those heat pumps and create a future-proof heating and cooling system. Ranging from underfloor heating, ultralow temperature radiators or fan convectors to electric radiators, radiator valves and smart controls.

It’s about finding this balance between the product’s commercial, sustainability and aesthetic value.

Within Crest Nicholson, total solutions are often considered but depending on the product and its overall value the supplier can still differ. Ian comments: “It’s again about finding this balance between the product’s commercial, sustainability and aesthetic value.” Tobias adds: “We also have to follow the Standard Assessment Procedure, or SAP, which is a method used to assess the energy and environmental performance of homes in the UK. We have to hit certain SAP targets and balance those with the commercial side.”

The type of radiator used is not something that needs to go into the SAP process, but smart thermostats, such as our Unisenza Plus thermostat, do. This wireless room thermostat can easily be placed in any room. When connected to the Unisenza Plus Gateway, it can be linked to the intuitive Unisenza Plus app that allows users to monitor and control their energy consumption room by room whenever and wherever they want. In fact, as the central unit, the gateway can connect up to 100 end devices, including a boiler, room thermostats, underfloor heating, bathroom radiators, (electric) radiators, TRV’s, etc. This allows for a fully tailored indoor climate comfort solution that can evolve with the building as well as the occupants’ needs and habits. That, in turn, leads to more comfort and energy efficiency, a win for the end users’ budget and the environment.

Read more about energy savings through zone temperature control

Crest Nicholson house Purmo radiator

Our heating solutions fit in very well in this Crest Nicholson show home.

Future-ready HVAC installations

With the help from their SAP assessor and the information supplied by manufacturers, the team at Crest Nicholson specifies the various products to be used in their houses. Ian says: “It’s then down to the contractor to install to that specification. In doing so, we do look at the long term and again take into consideration the various regulations. We used to have a higher flow rate through the radiators, for example. The government has now insisted that this is brought down. We need to think about the most suitable products for this in the long run so that as and when the gas boilers are taken out, an air source heat pump can be installed to create a low temperature heating system without having to replace all the radiators as well.”

Read more about how the gas boiler ban affects the HVAC system

At Purmo we fully understand the necessity for a long term view and the creation of future-ready HVAC installations. Using our own expertise, we assist our customers in this as best we can. Albeit with a complete portfolio of suitable solutions, by sharing know-how on which radiators are a perfect match for a heat pump or, as we do for Crest Nicholson, with our calculation service who ensures that the heating designs we provide allow for optimal comfort and efficiency, both now and in the future.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need assistance to create a future-ready HVAC installation or want expert advice tailored to your project(s).