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Housebuilder’s Plans To Be Zero Carbon By 2025

Posted 9 February 2021 by Keith Osborne

We hear from Thakeham Group’s Rob Boughton on his sustainability ambitions and the importance of creating a community...

Thakeham Group’s CEO, Rob Boughton, on his crusade to build zero carbon homes for buyers in search of a sustainable lifestyle, and a real sense of community.

How was Thakeham Group founded?

I actually started my career as an estate agent and worked my way up to becoming regional director, responsible for a number of offices for a reasonably sized agency. In 2003, I founded Thakeham Group, to deliver distinctive residential developments with high-quality yet accessibly-priced homes across the South East. You could say housebuilding is in my blood – my grandfather was in property – he was the managing director of a privately owned housebuilder, so naturally it is something I’ve always been interested in.

We understand that Thakeham is launching its own crusade to become zero carbon by 2025 – how will you achieve this?

Residential development has a big impact on the UK carbon footprint. At Thakeham, we’re very conscious of the need for a real change in behaviour to address the effects of climate change; we believe it’s our obligation and it’s underpinned by three pledges: every home to become zero carbon in lifetime use by 2025; every home to become carbon neutral in production; and for Thakeham Group to become a zero-carbon business by 2025. To do this we are working on better ways to build our homes that will reduce the whole-life carbon footprint – that will address the physical construction method, paired with design choices that enable and encourage our buyers to live the sustainable lifestyle that research shows that they are looking for.

Already at schemes such as Woodgate, every home has been designed to reduce its occupants’ carbon footprint, including high levels of insulation in all homes to reduce heat loss and fast electric car charging. On our upcoming schemes we have gone even further with the building fabric, even beating the space heating demand of Passivhaus standards.

In your opinion, is the building industry as a whole doing enough to work towards becoming carbon neutral?

I think so! As an industry, I think we’re moving as quickly as possible while remaining practical. Thakeham is recognised as one of the leaders in targeting carbon across the whole life cycle. We’re a founding member of the HBF Housing and Environment task force, as well as an exemplar builder on the Future Homes Taskforce driving sector-wide delivery. It’s great to have forums in which to share best practice. We all want to move forward collectively with shared knowledge to accomplish positive change.


Thakeham Homes is building a new scheme in Pease Pottage which promises excellent placemaking credentials, can you tell us more?

As our strategy has evolved towards zero carbon placemaking, Woodgate has become a really important flagship scheme for us. This is a development which has been designed for people to live, work and interact in a way which ultimately will reduce their carbon footprint.

The homes at Woodgate are set around a central village green. We have plans to gift a Village Store back to the community, supported by the Plunkett Foundation, via a Community Business Trust and will be providing a café and co-workspace too. With a new school on site, people with young families will naturally gravitate to the shop and café whilst on the school-run, whereas the co-workspace offers flexible room for start-ups or local groups to hold meetings, so it will obviously foster interaction between residents and reduce the need for people to travel further-afield to find what they need.

It’s our hope that this will ignite an old-fashioned community spirit that is a key pillar of sustainability. For me, it’s really important that Thakeham takes an active role in inspiring and enabling homeowners to create and maintain a real community. The Plunkett Foundation have over a century under their belt of supporting this vision, and we can’t wait to see these community-owned spaces come to life on new developments.

Woodgate has also been designed to integrate with the wider countryside, with benefits to wildlife as well as wellbeing. We’ve integrated nature trails and ponds early on so that residents can access nature from their front doorstep, rather than jumping in their car and going further afield.

WoodgateShow home kitchen at Woodgate

How will you encourage the scheme’s new homeowners to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

It is really important to us that we help our homeowners play an active part in their community and become more aware of their impact on our planet. The first step for us, as the journey is evolving, is to bring more - and better - ways for people to get to a zero-carbon position.

We’ve also introduced the Home Hub, a self-contained and fully insulated external room, currently exclusive to Woodgate. The global pandemic has created a shift in our working lives and with flexible working set to continue for the foreseeable future, we wanted to provide our purchasers with the option to further enhance their new home to meet the requirements of their changing lifestyles. The Home Hub creates a quiet haven for home office working.

Residents will have access to a fast-track bus service to Gatwick, reducing traffic in the wider area while the interlinking cycle routes will encourage active transport choices. Finally, if they really do need to use the car, we install fast electric car charging units to reduce barriers to making the switch to an electric vehicle.

What are the most exciting innovation on your radar as a housebuilder?

I’ve researched a great deal about biodiversity – it’s a fascinating subject – and the opportunities it presents within the housebuilding industry are exciting. At Woodgate, we’re providing 15 times more native woodland and planted areas than we are providing built development. What’s important is how you make that landscape accessible, connecting people with nature, and work with the Wildlife Trusts to help us achieve this.

The government has set a target for new developments of a 10% biodiversity net gain; however, we want to push the boundaries at Thakeham Group and we’ve set ourselves a target across all our sites of 20% by 2025. Already some schemes are exceeding this; at The Martingales, our scheme in Bookham, we’ve worked closely with Surrey Wildlife Trust and their independent assessment shows the site has a biodiversity net gain of 41.38%.

Looking beyond the metrics, we want to work with our homeowners and encourage our communities to protect wildlife. Connection with nature starts at an early age, and we are soon to launch an education programme with schools for every site during the construction phase – watch this space!

You’ve mentioned that Woodgate will also feature a £4million new primary school. What other amenities will you be introducing to appeal to buyers of all ages and life stages?

Woodgate provides a combination of homes from one- and two-bedroom apartments to three- and four-bedroom houses, bungalows and chalets so there really are homes to suit all ages and stages of life. Amenities such as the café, shop and primary school all contribute to curating a community of which our residents will be proud.

Will the scheme offer incentives to potential buyers such as Help to Buy or Shared Ownership?

Help to Buy and Shared Ownership are both available at Woodgate to buyers. It is imperative to us that all of our homeowners have the same purchasing experience, whether they’re purchasing a home with a mortgage, through Help to Buy or Shared Ownership. Our homes are tenure-blind and interspersed throughout the development.

WoodgateWoodgate Home Hub

Do you think the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will have a profound, long-term effect on what people are looking for in a home?

Yes, I absolutely do – I think we’ve seen an evolution this year and many people have reflected on what is really important to them, not least an increased desire for easily accessible outdoor space. Since lockdown eased, the demand we’ve seen – especially at Woodgate, a semi-rural village community surrounded by countryside – has been exceptional and is evidence of the sense of urgency in the market from buyers looking for a better life/work balance.

We think the change to peoples’ working patterns is permanent too. We’re addressing this through our master planning, whether that is generously sized plots and gardens, community facilities or our Home Hub product.

What else is in the pipeline?

We’ve recently opened our second Thames Valley regional office, located in Wokingham, and have plans to open another in Bicester. We’ve just announced our largest ever development in south-west Cambridgeshire which will comprise approximately 25,000 properties. It is one of the biggest single projects in the country today, and is set to be the first zero-carbon town in the UK. As our business, and partnerships, continue to grow I’m really looking forward to moving forward in 2021.

Find out more at thakeham.com.


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