Building nutrient neutrality into your housing development

Building nutrient neutrality into your housing development

Housing developments for up to 120,000 new build homes have been paused as a result of legislation put in place to protect the UK’s wetlands, rivers and nature reserves. Many of the UK’s internationally important water bodies are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. So for UK construction companies, building nutrient neutrality into their housing development has now become a crucial component.

Natural England, the government’s conservation watchdog, has already required developers in 32 local authorities to demonstrate they are causing no additional pollution of protected sites after a 2018 court of justice ruling to protect conservation areas designated by the EU.

With the government’s plan to build 3,000,000 new homes by 2025, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that the human habitat will be increasingly encroaching upon the natural one. 

Building nutrient neutrality into your housing development

Nutrient Neutrality

The term ‘nutrient neutrality’ involves retaining a healthy balance within natural habitats to preserve wildlife and biodiversity. Farming, sewer discharge and housing developments have been identified as contributors to the unbalancing of this neutrality. Therefore a successful development will need to ensure it has a comprehensive set of mitigation measures in place.

As James Stevens, director for cities at the Home Builders Federation, has stated:

“A consistent and standardised mitigation approach on water neutrality is essential to removing the growing block it is causing to housing supply.”

However, home development companies are concerned that their contribution to the overall pollution problem only averages around 4%. Farming, agriculture and the sewage system all make higher contributions to unbalancing nutrient neutrality.

A perfect storm for ESG

This halt in home building clearly highlights how the three key areas within ESG can be in conflict with each other. This results in a lot of confusion and anxiety for home developers trying to navigate this difficult terrain.

From an environmental point of view, developers must ensure they don’t breach the nutrient neutrality laws. From a social aspect, the houses are in high demand for people in need of accommodation for themselves and their family. From a governance angle, developers urgently require councils to have established mitigation schemes in place so they know precisely what must be adhered to.

All these factors combined have created a costly delay, both in time and in money. So in addition to the downtime, home developers have estimated these measures could add an extra £5,000 per house built. At a time of record inflation, this is not a welcome cost of doing business.

So where does the solution lie for construction companies? 

Building nutrient neutrality into your housing development (4)

The right technology

The priority for construction companies is to have a central base where the data for all three areas of ESG can be managed. A platform that can provide total visibility across all three scope emissions. One that can gather a set of transparent data for: raw materials, environmental impact, government certifications and social impact.

Once all the required data is gathered in one place, it can be measured and specific commitments can be put in place. These commitments will be aligned with the relevant government certifications and then quantifiable actions can be implemented on a roadmap towards a solution.

Consultation is key

Having the right software platform is one thing, but ESG and sustainability is new territory for many of these construction companies. An ever changing landscape requires a helpful guide with experience of both ESG and the construction industry. 

And while nutrient neutrality is one aspect of the new sustainability measures, raw materials are also a big part of the conversation as well as many more factors that will become part of the equation in due course.

Staying one step ahead requires a professional consultant with experience in the field. Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed with the sustainability requirements for your construction business?

Regenerative Sustainability

For over fifteen years, Anna Williamson has delivered strategic design consultancy services, leading in energy and carbon reduction. Anna has evolved her regenerative practice to incorporate biophilic feasibility surveys, housing design & specification and circular economy practice to ensure each action is delivered with the intention of doing more good for the planet rather than merely reducing environmental impact.

How could you align your approaches and roadmap to your understanding of regenerative?

How are your organisation’s carbon reduction, biodiversity, water conservation approaches regenerative?

anna williamson

Interested in learning more?

STAR Specialists

Rick Sanderson

Head of Partnerships

Carl Nancollas

ESG Lead


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