Co-Founders Of South-West Based Verto Homes, Tom Carr and Richard Pearce, Tell Us Why The Future Is Green And Great

Posted 30 January 2020 by Lizzie Leigh

Zero-carbon Verto Homes is out to prove that building mass-scale sustainable homes is possible and profitable.

We speak with Tom Carr and Richard Pearce of Verto Homes and ask them about their eco-driven business.

What was your inspiration around founding Verto Homes?

(TC) Architecture had always interested me as a child, and when Richard and I met 15 years ago we quickly realised we shared the same passion for property, business and the planet. Combine two young guys with these same passions and you get Verto Homes. Verto is Latin for ‘to transform’ ‘to make better’ and that is exactly what we strive to achieve with Verto Homes.

Our company’s sole objective is to change the way people live, by changing the homes they live in. When we started out we couldn't understand why the national housebuilders were still building the same cookie-cutter homes they had been building since the early 1900s and more so, why the government wasn’t doing anything to change it; there is a complete lack of sustainable housing solutions in the UK.

So, we gathered a bunch of like-minded investors, some decorated architects and set out to prove that you can build sustainably on a mass scale.”

Verto Homes was partly funded via crowdfunding platforms, does this structure influence decisions you take about the way you run the business?

(TC) “No, it doesn’t determine how we run our business but it has determined how we communicate with our lenders i.e investors. We’ve had to be very vocal, and communicate our actions a lot more than if we were borrowing from banks. Investors require constant visibility, clarification and assurance.

Verto Homes is seen as being a keen disruptor to the property market, why is this?

(RP) We were one of the first developers to go truly zero-carbon. While more people are becoming aware of how we can all live our lives in a more environmentally-friendly way, we are proud to have been doing this for almost a decade and have helped residents in the South West to begin their journey towards zero carbon living.

Our ‘Zero Carbon Smart Homes’ do not burn fossil fuels for light or heat, do not emit any CO2 into the atmosphere and are managed by a computer mini-server, or ‘hub’. Our homes autonomously manage power produced by integrated solar-roofing systems by sending it where it’s needed, and when. During the day, when the solar panels are producing energy, the homes will automatically divert this energy to high demand appliances as required. If energy isn’t required it will simply send the power to the national grid. We’ve trademarked the name with the aim of setting a benchmark for how homes should be constructed in the UK.

The benefits of renewable energy are widely reported, and aside from the benefit to the environment, consumers save on energy bills in energy-efficient homes, and those using solar panels are able to feed excess energy back into the grid.

“However, In addition to solar panels, at Verto our ‘Zero Carbon Smart Homes’ use Ground Source Heat Pumps, drawing heat from the ground. Indoors we use Mechanical Ventilation

with Heat Recovery systems to distribute warm air throughout the home, so that no heat generated is wasted, with other features including triple glazing, and zonal heating systems, so that only the areas of the property being used are heated.

These are methods that some London councils are starting to use in their residential developments, but it should not be down to the councils. Developers should be looking at the long-term cost savings these methods will provide, and install them from the outset.

Do you believe that the rest of the housebuilding industry is adapting quickly enough to building sustainably?

(TC) The Government would do well to bring in more measures to encourage smart energy consumption. We have to start thinking more creatively - about how we generate and reuse energy and take steps to implement these methods more widely. But too often, initiatives fall foul for not being definitive enough, being rushed or having loopholes, making it easy for groups not to deliver on initial promises.

If we look back at 2015, it was extremely disappointing when the government withdrew its ambitions for all new homes to be built to a zero-carbon standard. Following the initial timeline, the UK would have been positioned in line with our European counterparts where energy efficiency is concerned, but it is only now taking centre stage for politically advantageous reasons.

Do your clients buy your homes specifically because they are built sustainability, or are other factors equally as important?

(RP) Sustainability, design, space, location.

What are the main schemes you are working on this year?

(TC) Currently we are working on Lyonesse Lane in Rock, Cornwall, as well as developments in Truro, Falmouth, Exeter and St Ives. The development in Lyonesse Lane in Rock is a collection of eight, four bedroom detached homes, built to Verto Homes’ trademarked specification of ‘Zero Carbon Smart Home’ and containing the latest top-of-the-line smart home technology.

The development comprises four house types – the Mumford, the Carew, the Trevilian and the Irinerar (named after local legends), which are built in a modern striking angular design, mixing sleek weatherboarding with a textured exposed stone exterior, emulating the natural environment the homes are set within.

Each of the homes ranges in size from 1750 – 2000 square foot, is gated and comes with a large gardenm great for a vegetable patch, and a double detached garage, which comes with conversion proposals available. The homes are built to a very high specification, including quality integrated appliances and floor to ceiling windows which allow lots of natural light. Each property has a second floor balcony for enjoying the outdoors and surrounding views.

Does Verto Homes offer incentives for buyers, such as Help to Buy or Part Exchange?

(RP) We are registered with Help to Buy, so in the future a selection of our homes will be

available.

This government initiative also compliments what we are looking to achieve with our sister brand Vesta Partnerships. Vesta Partnerships will respond to the Homes England call for SMEs to accelerate affordable housebuilding: primarily focusing on collaborative partnering with Housing Associations and other publicly funded organisations.

Through our Vesta Partnership Scheme we will provide councils with a low-cost living house type that can be rolled out nationally, providing residents with both an affordable and energy-efficient home.

What are the latest trends coming through in sustainable design that we should be looking out for?

(TC) Smart appliances used in Verto’s ‘Zero Carbon Smart Homes’ offer many benefits for the homeowner, from intelligent heating and lighting control to security, entertainment and energy management.

We choose smart technologies based on their individual merits and capability to monitor and manage specific requirements of the home. The components have to be compatible with one another and have the ability to communicate seamlessly. Appliances can offer efficiency gains for energy demand in various ways, for example, homeowners can control food waste and cooking energy surplus/waste by being more accurate with their purchasing with the use of a smart-fridge.

Future-proofing homes is critical and we have to ensure the technologies used are suitable for the entire lifetime of the structure. The smart appliance network will eventually spread industry-wide as we have seen with the likes of intelligent smoke alarms and various connected appliances. Samsung recently stated they will only manufacture connected appliances by the end of 2020.

A major industry shift is coming and preparing for that should be mandatory. Hard-wired technology releases strains on WiFi networks while being more robust and secure.”

What is the best piece of advice you could offer somebody considering buying a new home?

(RP) Buying a new home is a big decision by any measure, so it is important to take time to research mortgage brokers, lawyers, surveyors and anyone else that will be involved in the process. Buyers should have realistic aims with regards to affordability of homes as well as time frames, and most significantly ensure all warranties are in place. If looking for a new home we would also encourage buyers to focus on sustainable homes with good insulation. Not only will this help the environment, but also provide cost savings later down the line.

Finally, where do you see Verto Homes ten years from now?

(RP) Over the next ten years, we have plans to deliver 5,000 new ‘Zero Carbon Smart Homes’, and trust with the government’s support for greener initiatives we can increase this figure. Our future is green and great. We have secured 11 project sites, with a potential saving of 3,952 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, so we have a lot to do in helping this industry to build sustainable, new homes that all buyers can aspire to live in and indeed give back to the planet by living in.

 

For more information visit www.vertohomes.com/.

 

A WhatHouse? Awards Bronze for Hyde New Homes
15 December 2015
Developer Hyde New Homes did well to catch the eye of the judges at the WhatHouse? Awards 2015 with one of its popular Brighton schemes...Read more
News
10 February 2016
The international property consultancy's latest report says government funding is not enough for supply of new homes to meet demand over the next...Read more
News
Spireswood Grange (David Wilson Homes)
7 March 2016
Its commuter population is one of the reasons behind Brighton's 'London-on-Sea' nickname, and its new homes market is still attractive to buyers ...Read more
Today's New Homes
Search  

Click here to see your activities