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Opportunities and challenges of creating greener housing in Nottinghamshire

The banking system must change to help support the growth of Britain’s green housing sector. This was just one of the suggestions to be heard at a lively event about the opportunities and challenges of building more sustainable housing that was held by Nottinghamshire’s GreenTech Business Network. The debate took place before a capacity audience at BioCity in Nottingham and featured a panel of experts comprising Blueprint chief executive Nick Ebbs; Barratt Developments’ head of sustainability Jacquelyn Fox; Mark Gillott, of the Institute of Sustainable Energy Technology at the University of Nottingham; Julian Marsh, of architects Marsh Grochowski; and Nick Martin, of Hockerton Housing Project. The general thrust of the debate was that there is growing demand for greener housing – new and existing – but that developers must find ways of bringing costs down, especially in an era of austerity when money is right and buyers are having problems securing mortgages. That there is local demand for sustainable housing was clearly articulated by Nick Martin, who said that one house for sale at the Hockerton Housing Project had attracted 110 enquiries in a week. But, according to Barratt’s Jacquelyn Fox, conventional developers face big problems in building more sustainable housing, including dealing with a constantly changing burden of regulation. And unlike niche developers, the mainstream builders cannot afford to go wrong on sustainable innovations. “You have to be aware that when we make a mistake we make it 22,000 times,” she said. “So when we come up with a solution we have to make sure it’s correct.” To these problems, Blueprint’s Nick Ebbs countered that the financial system needs to be reformed to incentivise both the building and buying of greener housing. This should include the banks offering cheaper mortgages to people buying energy-efficient homes. So what advice would the panel give to anyone who wanted to achieve energy savings in their existing homes? External insulation is better than internal insulation, said architect Julian Marsh. Get quality installers and fitters involved from the start, said the University of Nottingham’s Mark Gillott. Use sticky tape around your windows to increase insulation, said Nick Ebbs. He’d used it on his house and it had cost just £1.50.

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