UK homebuilders failing to deal with waste, report finds

The overwhelming majority of UK homebuilding firms have increased waste generation over the last year, according to a report assessing the sustainability performances of the UK's largest property developers.

The annual NextGeneration report, released on Thursday (1 December), benchmarks the sustainability of 25 UK firms across a range of factors including reporting, environmental site management, water, carbon and transport.

NextGeneration – which members include Berkeley Group and Taylor Wimpey – highlights rising waste levels for nine out of ten companies disclosing normalised waste. With half of the UK’s waste generated by the construction industry, this presents an “enormous opportunity for improve resource efficiency and reducing costs”, the paper states.

NextGeneration states its intentions to address the issue, through workshops and events, on how to integrate the circular economy into homebuilding in 2017.

According to the paper, integrating sustainability within the main business vision is a strong trend within the industry, with an increasing number of companies realising the potential for profitability and resilience. This was reflected by three members making Net Positive commitments to deliver greater biodiversity and negative carbon emissions.

The 2016 NextGeneration results placed Lendlease at the top of the pile, with Crest Nicholson and Barratt close behind in 2nd and 3rd place respectively. The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) has stated that the companies featured in the leading rankings demonstrate that building high quality developments are “core to what they do”.


UK-GBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen congratulated UK-GBC Gold Leaf member Lendlease for topping this year’s benchmark, and reserved praise for all other developers “who continue to demonstrate commitment to building high quality, sustainable homes”.

Sustainability challenges

NextGeneration’s 2016 rankings show a wide gap in how effectively homebuilders are addressing and communicating their approach to sustainability.

NextGeneration members lead with a member average nearly double the overall industry average, which the initiative believes reflects both the benefits of expert advice and peer learning and the greater disclosure of sustainability information by members to the benchmark.

Supplier engagement is also regarded as an area of weakness for the sector. The report states that only 62.5% of members engaged suppliers to address modern slavery risks, echoing a recent survey which found that more than half of construction businesses would not know what action to take if modern slavery was encountered in their supply chain.


Hirigoyen said: “There remains a significant gap between leaders and laggards which the industry must address if it’s to meet the pressing sustainability challenges ahead.” 

NextGeneration encourages construction firms to improve transparency through industry initiatives to help keep external stakeholders engaged with homebuilder efforts in managing sustainability risks and opportunities.  

Strong foundations

Despite the mixed bag of results, the homebuilding sphere has witnessed a shift towards a low-carbon transition in recent times, with a growing number of firms vowing to lead a new sustainability movement.

Berkeley Homes, for instance, recently unveiled a landmark plan to become Britain’s first carbon-positive housebuilder. As part of the plan, Berkeley has released a new sustainable housing design concept which outperforms traditional terraced housing by reducing up to 25% off utility bills and allowing residents to save up to 83% on gas bills and 30% on water.

Willmott Dixon – which was crowned as the Sustainable Business of the Year at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Awards –  last year unveiled ambitious plans to slash its carbon emissions in half by 2020 from a 2010 baseline.

The same firm recently announced new partnership with green energy supplier SmartestEnergy, which will see more than a dozen UK offices across the company’s portfolio powered with renewable energy.

George Ogleby

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