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Places for People and the University of Cambridge launch new report into delivering net zero homes

– 4 min read

Places for People has partnered with the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research to launch a new report into net zero affordable housing.

The research, entitled ‘Net zero ready new build housing: benefits and barriers to delivery’, is our fourth collaborative report with the organisation as we seek to improve sustainable housing delivery in the UK.

Key findings in our research

In our findings, we have concluded that partnerships, an upskilled workforce and improved government policy will help the housebuilding sector – one which is currently responsible for around 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The authors make a series of recommendations which they believe will assist developers in effectively planning for a zero-carbon future. Among them is a call for better cross-sector collaboration; the report suggests that organisations across the industry should come together to reduce carbon emissions – particularly when creating residential buildings – mitigating risk and helping deliver more net zero carbon ready homes by 2025.

"Through better collaboration, our industry can deliver zero net carbon ready homes at scale, working together to mitigate risks and help to build sustainably."

Greg Reed, Chief Executive Officer at Places for People

Speaking at the launch of the report, Greg Reed, Chief Executive Officer at Places for People, said: “The UK government has committed to zero carbon targets across the board, and it is imperative that we play our part in helping to achieve them. We believe that through better collaboration, our industry can deliver zero net carbon ready homes at scale, working together to mitigate risks and help to build sustainably.

“And as is the case with our series of reports with Cambridge, we need to see improved relationships between the housing sector and the research community; this will help create an evidence base of what works, allowing us to share best practice.”

The report also reflects on the role of central government, incorporating the findings of recent energy and net zero white papers. The authors however call for more commitment from the government on its policies in this area.

Dr Katy Karampour co-authored the piece and said: “On a macro-scale the government has committed to meeting legally binding zero carbon targets, but policy in the housebuilding sector has fallen behind.

“In our report, we reference the government’s decision to relax the Code for Sustainable Homes – a move which created a lack of long-term policy certainty for housebuilders. This must be addressed with clearer regulations and standards that the industry can comply with.”

Barriers to overcome to achieve net zero new builds

The research also suggests that sustainability objectives must be incorporated into all aspects of the housebuilding process, identifying barriers to implementing net zero housing throughout the construction cycle.

Dr Karampour continued: “There are challenges at every stage; at pre-construction, the aforementioned gaps in policy and regulation for delivering net zero carbon homes are prohibitive and compounded by the fact that building net zero carbon homes is more expensive. A lack of financial incentives and funding deters housebuilders from the outset.

“The skills shortage also impacts the process; there is a lack of net zero carbon skills and capacity within the supply chain, which is likely to reduce construction quality, make delivery more challenging and increase performance gaps. Procuring net zero carbon products at scale within the supply chain is a significant barrier faced by housebuilders and has a direct impact on their ability to build net zero carbon homes.”

The report also reviews the barriers at the post-construction stage, assessing the impact of consumer behaviour, the constraints within energy systems and the challenge of delivering or upgrading necessary infrastructure.

“Housing associations and others with stewardship responsibilities will perhaps need to change the ways in which they repair and maintain their housing stock as housing design and energy systems change.”

Dr Katy Karampour, Research Associate at University of Cambridge's Centre for Housing and Planning Research

Dr Karampour added: “Housing associations and others with stewardship responsibilities will perhaps need to change the ways in which they repair and maintain their housing stock as housing design and energy systems change.”

The new research is the fourth co-authored research piece by Places for People and the University of Cambridge after the series was launched in April 2021 with a report into the future of retirement housing in the UK, which made recommendations for viable homes for an ageing population.

Greg Reed concluded: “We acknowledge that we are on a journey, and we hope this research can help shape our thinking and the thinking of our peers across the sector.

“We are always striving to find new ways to make our homes more energy efficient, and to create truly sustainable communities that lay the foundation for social cohesion, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability. We will continue to work with our customers and partners to achieve this.”

Read the full report

The full published document is available to download here.

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