Sustainability is having a moment. How can property developers take advantage of this growing demand?

By Linda Rosen, founder of EDGE Design Studio, a sustainable and cruelty-free interior design company creating functional, healthy and future-proof spaces.

Sustainable habits flourish in times of stability. But when the economy crashes, our attention on everything eco-friendly tends to drift.

Since COVID-19 shook the world, sustainability advocates feared their cause would face another tumble. But, in fact, the opposite seems to be true. Our time shut away from the world in quarantine has given us all the pause we needed to remember the importance of our health and that of our planet.

Now, across every sector and industry, brands are rushing to seek sustainable alternatives, keen to shout about their eco-values and planet-friendly products.
So what does this mean for UK property developers?

When we’re open to changing what we eat, where we work, even how we travel, we’re more likely to seek change in other areas. More than ever since COVID-19, people are looking for new ways to make life a little bit more sustainable.

That’s why now is the perfect time to reflect on what your business stands for, seek to raise the bar and challenge current standards.

Why switch to sustainable?

Choosing to become sustainable will put your business at the cutting-edge of the market. This year, RIBA announced the 2030 Climate Challenge encouraging architects to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. But why not start now, get ahead of the curve and know that your developments are future-proof.
As Henry Ford said, ‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.’ Better to make a change in the industry and create a lasting legacy than maintain the status quo.

Plus, sustainability is good for business. It’s a sure-fire way to find your unique selling point and stand out in a crowded market. It’s a chance to find your voice and work with clients who align with your values. As sustainable property development is still in the early stages, you have the chance to stand tall and build a reputation as an industry leader.

But ultimately, we need to switch to sustainable development for the sake of our futures. Our planet can’t take much more. We need to make the right choices now so that our grandchildren have a place to call home.

So, what do sustainable properties look like?

The word sustainable is often used casually to highlight token gestures towards environmental preservation. But most don’t think beyond energy efficiency.
So what does it actually mean to create an eco-building? Whilst solar panels and proper insulation are a good start, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. When working with my clients on sustainable properties, we think about everything from low waste systems to the health of the occupants, air quality, acoustics and water-saving measures. Everything to make the building as waste-neutral, low energy, healthy and future-proof as possible.
The other major consideration is the decor and furnishings that finish the space. Most standard household furnishings, paints and materials are made with the use of harmful chemicals. In our society’s rush to make convenient things quickly and cheaply, we’ve sacrificed our health with barely a second thought.
At EDGE, we know the damage this can do to our planet and health, so we’re committed to using non-toxic and cruelty-free products in the properties we design.

Steer clear of greenwashing

In a recent Nielsen survey, 73 per cent of respondents said they would change their buying habits to reduce their environmental impact. As a result, brands and businesses have rushed to make a quick dollar, shouting about green credentials that are at best inadequate, at worst fabricated.

When a company advertises their product as sustainable, do your research to verify their claims. We’re working hard to develop a list of trusted suppliers so that we can guarantee the ethical and green credentials of every single product we use.

The sustainable movement is gathering pace. If you’re looking to maximise the future potential of your property developments, you need to be thinking green.

Together, we can create better standards in the industry that guarantee a brighter future for us all.