13/08/2023

Hightown’s commitment to sustainability

Coins piled on top of each with a hand holding a lightbulb above the coins

As England’s homes generate more carbon emissions than its cars*, the housing sector plays a crucial role in achieving the government's net zero targets.  Hightown is dedicated to driving changes and building a greener future.  

Energy efficient new homes

In line with our 2021-23 strategic plan, our goal is for all new Hightown homes to have an energy efficiency rating of Band B or better. This ambitious aim requires a 'Fabric First' approach, prioritising the energy performance of building components to minimise heat loss. From insulating walls, floors, lofts, and roofs to installing double glazing, our focus is on maximising energy efficiency. In 2022-23, the average SAP rating for new homes was 84.1, with 98% achieving Band B or higher, with the remaining 2% achieving a Band C rating, several of which were attributed to the use of Calor gas as there was no mains gas supply.  

Harnessing Solar Power

Where planning permits, we incorporate photovoltaics (PV) - solar electricity panels on new properties to generate renewable energy and energy efficiency. By the end of 2022-23, approximately 7% of our properties had PV installations, contributing to a greener energy mix.

Energy Efficiency Portfolio

With Hightown’s rental portfolio of over 6,000 properties, an impressive 70% have an energy efficiency rating energy of Band B and above.  Only 16 rental homes remain in Band D and one remains in Band E; we are reviewing the viability of remedial works to improve the energy efficiency of these properties.  Last year, we invested £563,000 in energy efficiency works to existing properties, including improving the insulation of 289 properties with new doors and windows and carrying out 184 heating and hot water replacements. 

Trialling sustainable energy solutions

In line with the UK’s ambitious goal of achieving carbon net zero by 2050, the Government has taken a significant step by banning gas boiler installations in newly constructed homes starting 2025. To pave the way for this transition, Hightown has taken proactive measures and commenced trials of alternative sustainable energy solutions. Notably, 158 properties at the Maylands Plaza development in Hemel Hempstead are now equipped with air source heat pumps. These innovative pumps harness external heat and efficiently transfer it indoors. Not only does this provide environmental benefits but also a financial benefit of reducing energy bills by approximately £115 annually when compared to a new A-rated gas boiler and saving £870 in comparison to new electric storage heaters, according to data from the Energy Saving Trust.

Reducing energy consumption at our central offices

In early 2023, an audit by independent assessors revealed that our central offices emit significant CO2 emissions from the heating, air-conditioning, and lighting, amounting to 39 tonnes and 11 tonnes annually respectively. 

To combat this, we are replacing fluorescent light tubes with eco-friendly LED tubes, reducing energy consumption by 78% and saving 9.75 tonnes of CO2 yearly, equivalent to the emissions of five petrol-driven cars. Our facilities team is also working on improving heating and cooling efficiency, while external communications educate staff on energy-saving practices. Additionally, our central offices already utilise photovoltaic roof panels, saving 141 tonnes of CO2 emissions in 11 years.  This collective effort showcases our commitment to sustainability and a greener future.

Educating residents 

In the summer of 2022, we organised sustainability themed events at seven Hightown estates, engaging 85 residents. These events covered diverse environmental topics, such as waste awareness and recycling, green volunteering opportunities and the ‘Energy Doctor’ energy advice scheme. Additionally, we consistently encourage residents to be mindful of their environmental impact through regular communications on our website.

*Research by the National Housing Federation