New build shouldn’t mean new problems

A new housing development can often be one of the most controversial issues that a community can face. With a need to build 300,000 new homes per year, plenty of communities will feel the effects of new housing developments. One of the most obvious impacts is on the increase in traffic on the local road network, both during the time which this housing is being built and afterwards.

A big challenge is to ensure that these new homes minimise their environmental impact from the outset. The Committee on Climate Change recently published a report that states that all new build homes should all but eliminate their carbon emissions as a matter of design, as well as encouraging active travel where feasible. That is hard to disagree with really. Who doesn’t want to reduce their carbon emissions.

But the act of building something also has a significant environmental impact. We know from our work that local authorities are concerned about emissions and noise from construction traffic and deliveries that serve major construction sites. But the impact goes much wider than than a local issue.

Building 300,000 new homes a year, regardless of the building standards, will have a huge environmental impact. Notwithstanding other major construction projects like new roads and new railways. In 2008, these carbon emissions that the construction industry was able to influence was estimated at 298 MtCO2. That’s a lot of emissions.

Of course our solution focusses on air and noise pollution. But we can’t help but wonder whether the construction industry could be doing more? If we are to face a low carbon future, we cannot rely just on what we are building to have a low environmental impact.