Our way of living is at risk and transformational change is needed to reverse nature loss and ensure the next generation can reap the benefits of a thriving natural world.
In its Energy Whitepaper government set ambitious targets for the housing sector, requiring that all social homes have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of C by 2035 (where possible) and that from next year, all new homes reduce carbon emissions by 31%.
Targets around energy efficiency will get the housing sector a long way to meeting the Net Zero challenge, but not the whole way. It is also true that a singular focus on emissions will not reverse the decline in the UK’s natural environment - the UK’s most important wildlife has fallen by 60% in the last 50 years, insect numbers are in long-term decline, and important habitats are deteriorating.
There is a growing awareness that we need to look beyond housing stock, to the creation of sustainable green communities if we’re to help the next generation reap the benefits of their natural world.
Leading environmentalists agree. In conversation with The Guardian, Prof Richard Gregory, head of monitoring conservation science for RSPB spoke out against the decline in spending on biodiversity, warning, “With the climate and biodiversity crisis, nature-based solutions are part of what we should be doing, so it’s crazy we’re not investing in this.”
A new report by Miriam Frankel, science editor at The Conversation, calls for a mix of government and individual action to protect biodiversity and encourages we allow more space for nature in our communal spaces by allowing areas to grow wild.
With scientific evidence mounting, sustainability leads within the housing sector are waking up to the idea of Green Gains and the wider opportunity the land around them creates. We are seeing a growing number of pioneering environmental programmes that enhance biodiversity, reverse nature loss, and support the journey to Net Zero.
Working with St. Modwen Homes, we regenerated Longbridge town centre. The green space now supports biodiversity and community wellbeing with 46 new trees, 3,500 shrubs and plants, 6,500 bulbs, several species of wildflowers and bespoke seating for up to 80 people.
Sovereign Housing recognised that green spaces are a life support system for the community. Completed in 2020, Lockdown Woods is a new woodland of saplings. As it matures the woodland will help reduce the housing association’s carbon footprint and become a wellbeing haven for the community.
We’ve also demonstrated significant Green Gains at our own Ground Control demonstration site, Little Cowbridge Wood, where 9-hectares of multi-function native broadleaf woodland were planted along with meadow restoration, orchard planting, the introduction of bees and the generation of 11kW of wind, 50Kw of solar power and 80kWh of battery storage.
As industry leaders prepare for Housing 2021 and aim to address the biggest Net Zero challenges facing the sector, it’s vital we look outside to the natural environment around us. Together, the housing sector and its supply chain partners can collaborate to reverse nature loss, help arrest the climate emergency and improve the lives of communities for the long-term.
Sam Jones is Sector Lead at Ground Control