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Thu September 23 2021

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West Byfleet retirement complex goes for net zero

14 Sep Retirement Villages Group says that it is building the UK’s first later living development with ‘net zero carbon’ over its 60-year lifespan.

Retirement Villages Group's West Byfleet flats for old folk will replace an office block and a shopping precinct
Retirement Villages Group's West Byfleet flats for old folk will replace an office block and a shopping precinct

Retirement Villages Group (RVG) says that – thanks to offsetting – its 196-home mixed use development at West Byfleet in Surrey will be the UK’s first ‘net zero carbon’ scheme over its whole development and operational lifespan in the later living sector.

RVG is the first developer to use UK Green Building Council’s net zero carbon buildings framework definition in this sector, it says. The embodied carbon will be offset at practical completion; the operational carbon will be offset every year.

RVG is owned by AXA IM Real Assets, part of a French insurance conglomerate. It recently announced plans to acquire and develop up to 40 new later living schemes across the UK over the next 15 years and is committed to achieving ‘net zero carbon’ across the whole development and operational lifespans for all its projects.

‘Offsetting’ usually means handing over money to a third party agent for remote ‘save the rain forest’ type projects. RVG is looking closer to home.

To reach its carbon reduction goals, RVG is establishing a decarbonisation fund (which it has set at £70/tonne of carbon) that will offset embodied carbon from all its future developments. The offset funds will be used in decarbonisation projects across RVG's existing operational assets. For example, the removal of gas boilers and replacement with all electric heating systems that use renewable energy, as it seeks to achieve net zero carbon across their estate well in advance of the 2050 deadline.  

Chief executive Will Bax said: “Our West Byfleet project sets a benchmark that I actively encourage others to follow by looking beyond industry requirements and assessing the carbon emission of a building throughout its life.

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“The past year has given us all an opportunity to step back and reflect. There is no longer a choice of whether to act, it is imperative that we all recognise the need to do more, work harder, share knowledge, collaborate, and find a way to reverse the climate tide. This is not a race worth running alone, we’re looking for partners to work with us on our journey to be net zero carbon by 2030.”

Graph shows the indicative carbon use in a building over a 60-year life
Graph shows the indicative carbon use in a building over a 60-year life

 RVG worked with consulting engineer Hoare Lea on the West Byfleet scheme and to develop its sustainability strategy across the business.

Hoare Lea partner Mark Wilkinson said: “RVG aren’t just addressing the obvious net zero energy requirements for their scheme but are embracing every aspect of sustainable design and are creating fantastic spaces for people to live.”

UK Green Building Council chief executive Julie Hirigoyen added: “Make no mistake, achieving net zero carbon for construction, and maintaining this for energy in-use, lifts the bar on expectations for developers. Investing in a transition fund to accelerate wider decarbonisation of RVG’s portfolio is additionally commendable.”

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