In moving towards achieving our net-zero carbon goal by 2035, we are thrilled to announce that we have appointed sustainability specialists, Energist as a long-term partner, who will assess our portfolio and future developments from both construction and operational perspectives. Having worked with The Berkeley Group, Taylor Wimpey, Bellway and Redrow Energist has substantial expertise and experience in the construction sector; the specialists are now set to deliver a bespoke roadmap of solutions and will provide us with ongoing consultancy.
With a focus on London, the South West of England and South Wales and led by our ‘different by design’ ethos, we currently have 14 live sites and a further 10 in the pipeline, all of which are unique, with many featuring existing or historical buildings. Our commitment to reusing buildings wherever possible is our USP within the housebuilding industry, however it does mean that this bespoke approach to each site presents a greater challenge for us as every one must be assessed individually. The standardised approach to assessment that developers with more homogeneous design and build can deploy is not open to us at Acorn, but this challenge is part of what makes our designs interesting.
At Acorn we take a fabric first approach; working with a site’s existing buildings or listed elements, then we work carefully to make the building’s envelope as efficient as possible with thoughtful architecture going above and beyond industry standards. We’re proud to say that the resulting developments often far surpass the average Energy Efficiency Assessments and U-values required. These eco-credentials combined with our designers’ thoughtful place-making are often cited by our buyers as an important draw.
Julian Hampson, our Group Design Director and Acorn Green Ambassador says: “As a regeneration specialist, we pride ourselves on working carefully with architects, heritage experts and local communities on how to transform sites whilst incorporating their history into our designs, often by retaining existing buildings. They say the greenest building is the one that already exists, and we embrace that wherever possible; the resulting homes reduce embodied carbon in addition to retaining unique character and a rich sense of place and space, something our buyers really appreciate. This method does mean we need to develop bespoke approaches for each site to meet our green goals without compromising the complex nature of each construction programme.
As we work through our detailed sustainability initiative over the coming months and analyse the data for the current live sites, we plan to work towards staying ahead of the new Future Homes industry requirements. By 2025, the Government has announced that it does not want any new home to be built with fossil fuel heating, such as a natural gas boiler and any new housing will also have to be future-proofed so that no further energy efficiency retrofit work will be necessary to enable them to become zero-carbon.
We are planning to meet and surpass these requirements ahead of the Government target and hope to have its first design types and construction programmes for zero-carbon homes by 2030 with the net zero carbon goal to be achieved company-wide by 2035.
One of the first landmark developments to champion the Acorn Green kitemark will be Saxonvale, the regeneration of 10-acre brownfield site in Frome, Somerset. A high-quality bespoke residential led mixed-use development; it is set to offer circa 300 new homes, a variety of commercial spaces including offices, live-work units and other commercial space. Saxonvale will create a sustainable living and working community that capitalises on proximity to Frome town centre and the presence of the river with its associated network of footpaths, enables lifestyles for which access by foot and bicycle are central features.
In our current portfolio, several key developments incorporate green elements and in places are up to 150% better than current regulations. The leading sites are The Old Printworks in Frome, Brooks Dye Works in St Werburghs, Cubis Bruton in Bruton and Cross Farm in Wedmore. Some green elements to highlight include Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery systems, solar panels, electric car charging or cabling for future installation of electric car charging points, high performance double or triple glazing, enhanced insulation, LED lights, energy saving appliances and smart meters. Our Acorn Green initiative will also strive to help our buyers understand what some of these elements mean and how to use them effectively.
We also see the ecology of each site as paramount to creating a green community – so we look to relocating protected wildlife, preservation processes including the installation of bat boxes, hedgerow corridors, bee bricks, tree planting, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS), hedgehog paths and communal open green space wherever possible, to name but a few.
Over the coming months, Energist will carry out assessments of all current Acorn developments to better understand the supply chain, build specification and construction process to help identify potential for improving each element’s sustainability.
Julian Hampson, Group Design Director and Acorn Green Ambassador for Acorn Property Group says: “We are delighted to implement our Acorn Green principles across our current development portfolio and pipeline sites. For years we have sought to go above and beyond building regulations and deliver environmentally conscious homes, with each site needing an individual approach. We believe sustainability is not just about carbon emissions but also to the sustainability of place, healthy living, surrounding biodiversity; all this feeds into our placemaking. Launching Acorn Green helps deliver our roadmap towards net zero carbon, but also brings a focus to what we have been doing for years, helping our partners, suppliers, local authorities, and customers understand why being green is so important to us all. We have now partnered with Energist to deliver long-term consultancy for how we as a Group can streamline our green efforts and exceed the upcoming legalisation changes, moving towards our ultimate net zero carbon goal.”
Stuart Clark, Director, Energist UK says: “Energist are incredibly excited to be working closely with Acorn for the foreseeable future, as we see unprecedented change in the world of energy and sustainability. This is change that both Acorn and ourselves are one step ahead of, and our shared desire to explore the cutting-edge of sustainability will create homes that are comfortable to live in, cheap to run, and have minimal impact on the environment. This ethos is energising and will continually drive us to be at the forefront of our industry, offering expert, impartial advice to support Acorn on their journey to net zero carbon.”