The Part L building regulations cover the conservation of fuel power in new-build properties. The regulations are about fuel efficiency, how much energy is used to heat things up, the conservation of energy within a property and the type of energy used to heat up properties.

Paul Staley

Paul Staley, Managing director, Wise Living

The government wants new legislation in force by 2025 and this is a clear direction that houses need to be more energy efficient. This move towards building more efficient homes is something that resonates with many renters.

Wise Living surveyed 1,000 tenants earlier this year to find out what was important to them. Data showed tenants were interested in sustainability issues, they wanted smart technology and they wanted to live in a well-managed and well-maintained property.

Some 63% of renters think about saving energy in their home; 69% of renters would like to do more for the environment; and 46% of tenants surveyed said climate-friendly practices were important to them but ultimately, it needed to fit with their lifestyle and be convenient. Our survey also showed that smart homes had a clear appeal among renters, especially within the younger demographics.

These are statistics housebuilders need to pay attention to. Housebuilders could make it easy for renters by not only building smarter homes where a mobile phone app could be used to control the energy use within the home, but by also educating them on how to live in and heat up a modern house. The increasing focus on sustainability, flexibility and smart technology should serve as a weathervane, showing the build-to-rent (BTR) sector which way the wind is blowing.

The Part L regulations are geared towards insulating properties better and making them more airtight. Retaining energy in the house can be done by getting better-designed windows, better ventilation and better insulation. Housebuilders need to work on making sure houses are kept at a constant temperature by providing tenants with the smart tools needed and educating them on how to use smart technology to control the ambient temperature of the home. Housebuilders also need to make sure that air flows around the house, so there is a need for ventilation systems that are properly managed and maintained.

Our research is already helping us shape our plans for the future, with the retrofitting of smarter, greener technologies already happening across many of our properties

The new regulations also mean builders will now have to move away from primary sources of energy towards secondary sources. In essence, that means using electricity to heat houses, instead of gas.

New houses over the next two to three years will probably move over to air source heat pumps, a renewable energy technology device placed outside the property, which absorbs heat from air outside the home and uses it to heat the house and water.

Working out how to put a box-like device outside the house to generate electricity is going to take a bit of joined-up thinking. The entire sector needs to work together to figure out how to lay out and design new houses. We all need to get comfortable and start thinking about how we fit houses together to accommodate big-box-like equipment.

The right knowledge

The future standards will require new technologies coming through. However, we don’t yet have enough engineers out there with the relevant know-how. We don’t have enough supply of renewable energy devices such as these air source heat pumps and, therefore, that supply chain needs to be sorted out and maintained. We also need to know how they fit in the fabric of a house and this will change by location, house type, development and local authority overview.

Wise Living homes

Our research is already helping us shape our plans for the future, with the retrofitting of smarter, greener technologies already happening across many of our properties as well as the specification of improved technology across our new-build properties.

One big topic of discussion in relation to building smart homes of the future is the cost. Change costs money and it is estimated making homes smarter and more energy efficient will add around £7,000 to £8,000 on the average new-build house price in terms of what the cost to build will be. This price tag may decrease as we get a better understanding of the technology. However, right now, it carries a huge cost. On the plus side, the people who live in those houses will benefit from significantly lower energy costs.

Wise Living believes tenants will be prepared to pay more. For the BTR sector, tenants surveyed said they would be happy to pay up to £25 more per calendar month for a flat if it were to include smart technology, with that figure rising to £30 for houses. These increases are the largest of any of the other factors raised in the survey, showing a clear lean towards smart technology as a driver for the rental market.

Over the next two or three years, we will see much greener houses coming through on a more regular basis. We may see companies such as ilke Homes or other modular housebuilders come more to the fore. Currently their products are quite expensive against traditional housebuilding but once you start layering on the new technologies and the new requirements in terms of energy, their products are already at that level.

It’s going to cost people more to build houses like they do now. Therefore, the gap between traditional build and modular buildings will shrink and there will be a growth in modular housebuilding over the next few years.

In conclusion, BTR housebuilders need to work to ensure they can build the smart, energy-efficient and cost-effective houses of the future. We at Wise Living are on a journey to create fresh, bold housing solutions, leading to happier renters and a buoyant sector.

Wise Living

About Wise Living

• Wise Living provides high-quality, purpose-built, family homes for the private rental sector. It challenges existing standards in the sector by creating and nurturing communities, to drive better living standards for families renting homes in the UK.

• Wise Living is uniquely placed to provide all services under one roof. From identifying the ideal sites for renters, to maintaining all properties to a high standard, ensuring all tenants have a decent home and a great place to live.

• To help fund its strategy to deliver quality rental homes to undersupplied suburban areas in the UK, Wise Living works with a range of investment managers who share an ambition to deliver a fresh, bold housing solution.

• To date, Wise Living has delivered, or is delivering, BTR developments in partnership with housebuilders including in Birkenhead, Boston, Coventry, Mansfield, Rotherham, Telford and Wolverhampton.