Retirement Villages Group (RVG) today announces that its 196-home mixed use development at West Byfleet, Surrey, will be the UK’s first ‘net zero carbon’ scheme over its whole development and operational lifespan in the later living sector. In the context of a global climate emergency, RVG’s market-leading commitment significantly exceeds the requirements of current UK planning and construction regulations and aims to set new standards for the industry.

The net zero status accounts for carbon generated by both the materials used to build the project, known as embodied carbon, as well as the ‘operational carbon’ used to run the development over an average 60-year lifespan. RVG is the first developer to use UKGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework definition in this sector. The embodied carbon will be offset at Practical Completion and the operational carbon annually. Embodied carbon in construction can account for 50% of a building’s carbon footprint over its lifetime1 and is regularly excluded from the definition of ‘net zero’ used across the property industry.

RVG, which is owned by AXA IM Real Assets, recently announced ambitious 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. To reach its carbon reduction goals, RVG is establishing a decarbonisation fund (set at a self-imposed £70/tonne of carbon) that will offset embodied carbon from all its future developments. The funds will be used to invest in verified offsets and invest in a range of decarbonisation projects across RVG’s existing operational assets. For example, the removal of gas boilers and replacement with all electric heating systems that utilise renewable energy, as they seek to achieve net zero carbon across their estate well in advance of the 2050 deadline.

RVG’s newest schemes will also be designed and constructed to meet the highest 3-star ‘Fitwel’ standard, used to measure a user’s experience of living in a new buildingIts accreditation signals to employees, residents, investors, and others that wellness is prioritised within the design, developmentand operations of buildingand communities.

This announcement builds on the new sustainability strategy established by Retirement Villages Group in January 2021, which sets a clear roadmap to achieving net zero carbon by 2030.

Will Bax, CEO of RVG, comments: “Our new developments will not only be fabulous places to live, they will be easy on the planet by leaving a net zero carbon footprint over their lifetime whilst also seeking to boost local biodiversity as a key priority. 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. 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.”

RVG worked with consultants Hoare Lea on the West Byfleet scheme and to develop their sustainability strategy across the business.

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