Why we need to prioritise sustainable property development

By John Hitchcox, founder of Cotswolds Waters

The climate crisis and property development

The global response to climate change is having an impact on all industries, and the property sector is no exception. With an estimated 40% of all global carbon dioxide emissions produced by the real estate sector, it is imperative that we enact change to streamline our industry into a more sustainable future.

Furthermore, buyers are becoming increasingly more introspective about their spending choices. With 55% of UK adults considering the environmental impact and energy efficiency of a property before renting or buying, developers can set their properties apart by re-evaluating their processes, materials and emission output to both attract potential buyers for a new home, and safeguard the future of the planet.

Sustainable property: It all starts with the plot

With 30% of all emissions produced by the real estate sector coming from construction, starting from scratch is the best way to ensure you have control over the eco-credentials a property has.

​​At The Lakes by YOO, Cotswolds Waters, each buyer of the 77 property plots around the four lakes on the estate has input into each stage of the development of their home. With our guidance and expertise, buyers are making the most informed decision on the sustainable efficacy of their property. This then motivates sensible choices to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint from the ground up. For instance, we encourage each house to be built locally sourced stone, responsibly sourced timber from forests which are continuously replenished, and from where surrounding flora and fauna will not be damaged. We have a range of renewable energy options such as Air source heat pumps and we promote the use of photovoltaic solar panels to utilise the sun’s abundance of clean, renewable energy into electricity.

We have also developed building designs which understand Summer and Winter Sun paths in order to optimize passive solar gains. These rely on the changing of the path of the sun throughout the year. You can maximise solar gain through thoughtful building design, for instance, positioning windows on the sunniest side of the building to reduce heat loss, utilising glazed certified windows and doors with high insulation values, soundproofing and airtightness, and use high levels of insulation to reduce heat loss from the building.

UK second homes and their benefit to buyers and the ecosystem

The second home property market in the UK is booming, and forward thinking buyers are grasping the environmental, economic, and lifestyle benefits of buying sustainable local housing.

A smart home with sustainable features and good energy efficiency is becoming an increasingly attractive asset for buyers. Incorporating renewable energy typically has lower operation and maintenance costs, and does not incur fuel costs once installed. Robust loft insulation also has its cost benefits, with the potential to save owners up to £570 a year for a detached house, therefore both protecting the planet, and buyer’s wallets in the long term.

Buying local can also significantly reduce your carbon footprint by lowering travel mileage, reducing overall fuel consumption, and air pollution. Alongside these environmental benefits, the locality of The Lakes by YOO means buyers have the freedom to visit more regularly without travelling overseas so owners can experience their second home to the best of its capacity. An easy 90 minutes from London, the estate provides the perfect escape for city-dwellers so families have a quick and accessible option to escape for a weekend, or for longer during school holiday breaks. Alongside all of these benefits, the surge in hybrid working means UK properties are becoming more and more the ideal investment option.

The future of luxury property development, surrounded by the natural environment

It is not only our responsibility as developers to be conscious about the materials that make up a home, and the longevity of the energy sources used to run it, but to also take into account the biodiversity of the land surrounding it.

This holistic approach to property development is encapsulated across our 110 acre private estate, whose stunning, tranquil setting in the Cotswold countryside gives residents access to four lakes, nature trails and woodlands, as well as a beautiful river pedestrian route to Fairford village. We have a plethora of thoughtful activities which support the natural environment across the estates, including rewilding and conservation projects, planting fields of bee-friendly flowers, and maintaining eco-ponds. Taking a sensitive approach to construction is also beneficial to long-term sustainability goals. For instance, the eco-efficient luxury holiday homes at Cotswold Waters are built on less than 10% of the site, which leaves 90% of the property to be enhanced and rewilded, resulting in increased biodiversity and a habitat rich environment for sustainable wildlife. Furthermore, since inception, we have also planted 500,000 trees across The Lakes by YOO, and every September we harvest the green tips on our yew trees to make life-saving cancer medication.

It is integral to have an ecocentric approach to property development so that we can offset the inevitable emissions made from the industry and guide us on the vital path to net-zero.