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Beyond Greenwash: The Passion Driving Genuine Sustainability in Housing Development

This year has seen us working on a number of projects around social housing, shared ownership development, and retrofit projects of properties to meet the Government’s minimum energy efficiency standard of EPC band C for all tenancies by 2029.


And what I’ve experienced, and found most interesting, is that companies are no longer being dragged to the table but are actively looking, not only to meet standards which could be seen as quite exacting anyway, biodiversity net gain for example, but are looking to exceed them, and they are passionate about doing so.


Developers are keen to find sites with easy access to high quality green space, provide private outdoor and communal space in their developments which generates a neighbourhood feel well beyond the boundaries of their development, and promotes social interaction and connectivity with the area around them. They are also pushing the boundaries on thermal comfort with alternative heating sources (primarily renewables), and are keen to future proof for the next 30 years. Without doubt, there is certainly a commercial sense behind this, but for many it goes beyond that, and is part of a drive to really be part of the solution to many of the challenges which we face in terms of climate change and social cohesion.


I’m sure there are still pockets of organisations out there, cost engineering out potential energy improvements and creative ways to meet the integration of light, space, and biodiversity into buildings to save a few quid on construction costs, but from what I’m seeing they are few and far between.


In addition to the obvious benefits of creating affordable spaces where people can live and thrive, the whole process is driving several other benefits. First, the link between open space, talking to neighbours, being part of a community and improved mental health is huge. We are starting to build communities which drive us towards better health and wellbeing, and this is exciting to witness. More than that, for future generations this approach is helping in the Government’s drive towards a fair and just green transition, supporting the green skills agenda in the process of building and developing our infrastructure. Solar installations, air source heat pumps, and to a lesser extent, ground source heat are becoming the norm, providing a whole range of green skills for apprentices and the next generation of talent in the construction industry. This increase in the talent to deliver green solutions can only help architects and planners become more confident in designing and delivering the type of projects which can transform our built environment, and its effect on climate change. 


As the EU publishes increasingly stringent guidelines on green claims and greenwashing (most recently the new EU Directive on Greenwashing -Jan 2024), and demands an ever-increasing evidence trail, perhaps more time should be devoted to celebrating some of the great leaps forward we are taking, to lead others to follow suit and meet and exceed current standards and requirements, leading to ongoing investment into the green transition rather than investment into the administrative burden. 


We all want to avoid ‘greenwash’, but recognising the passion and commitment that the majority of developers are bringing to this agenda is certainly one way of avoiding it that should not be underestimated. And the next generation of talent, now benefitting from these requirements, are likely to ensure it is a curve that carries on ever upward.

At Collins McHugh we can help you every step of the way. If you’d like more information, please do get in touch on 0330 223 2965 or email

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