Recession is already leading to reduced demand for sustainability in housing, reveals survey

Housing is the sector most likely to lose sustainability gains in the downturn, a survey carried out by Building with the Energy Saving Trust has found.

More than half (55%) of survey respondents said they expect housing to lose sustainability elements in a recession. Four-fifths (40%) expect offices to lose out. Sustainability is expected to be most robust in healthcare and education, with only 7% and 10% predicting green features will be lost on those types of scheme.

Henley Homes
The downturn could reduce the number of green schemes such as South Yorkshire Housing Association's Henley Rise, which has one of the largest solar power arrays in the country

The survey, reported by Building last week, revealed the impact that the downturn is having on sustainability. Of the 380 responses from across the housebuilding industry, 88% said green building will be affected by the economic climate.

Fifty-five per cent said clients are already asking them to drop sustainable elements. Of those, 56% said that renewable energy generation is suffering, while 57% said they are losing sustainable building services and between 25% and 30% said ecology, finishes and building envelopes are suffering.

But the mood was brighter in terms of aspiration: over half (51%) of those surveyed said that they are aiming for environmental excellence - BREEAM Excellent or Code for Sustainable Homes at level four or above- in up to 25% of developments. Some 20% are seeking to achieve that level of sustainability in between 25% and 50% of schemes.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) thought that legislation or government commitment would help to keep sustainability up the agenda in the downturn. But hopes about demand driving sustainability gains were few and far between; only 7% thought the public would set the agenda on this.