- freely available
Sustainability 2010, 2(7), 2084-2116; https://doi.org/10.3390/su2072084
1. Introduction and Background
2. Literature Review
2.1. Defining Sustainable Communities
2.2. Demand for Sustainable Homes
2.3. Demand for Self-Build
2.4. Demand for Community Self-Builds
2.5. The Market for Self-Build and Sustainable Homes
2.6. Industry and Competition
- Volume house-builders who tend to build large developments of hundreds or thousands of homes, but sometimes also build smaller developments.
- A builder with his team, who is likely to build and sell small groups of properties at a time.
2.7. Home Buyers Priorities
|Why if at all would you be interested in living in a sustainable housing development?||Percentage of people answering yes in Ipsos MORI study|
|It would help me do my bit to save the planet||54%|
|It would reduce the amount I pay on bills||35%|
|It would increase the quality of life for me and my family||25%|
|It would be cleaner and “fresher” to live in||24%|
|It would be a better place for bringing up children||20%|
|It would have a close-knit community feel||18%|
|It would be safer than other places to live||16%|
|It would have cutting edge design and technology||16%|
|Priorities when moving to a new home||Mean score |
|Close to family and friends||7.2|
|Low crime area||6.8|
|Access to good local schools||6.6|
|Quality of construction and finish||6.5|
|Number of rooms||6.3|
|Access to good local healthcare||6.0|
|Good transport links||5.7|
|Parks and open spaces within walking distance||5.6|
|Internal design and appearance of the house||5.6|
|Size of rooms||5.5|
|Low noise and pollution||5.4|
|External design and appearance of the home||5.2|
|Good local shopping/leisure facilities||5.1|
|Environmental friendly construction material||4.7|
|Access to food from local producers||4.1|
|Quality of fixtures and furnishings||4.1|
|Convenient recycling facilities||4.1|
|Water saving appliances||3.9|
3. Problem Statement and Research Objective
- Potential customers: Individuals interested in sustainable housing and self-build communities were interviewed in order to understand what in particular attracts them to this type of development, their characteristics and their expectations. Individuals with insufficient financial reserves to realistically partake in a self-build project (i.e., with less than £70,000 available capital) were excluded.
- Self-builders and semi-self builders from the Ashley Vale development to understand the lessons they have learned, what they would replicate and what they would do different if they did it again, the types and profiles of households that were attracted to the project. The idea was to learn how their business model could be improved upon and replicated through an ethical enterprise.
- People who would not be interested in partaking in an eco-self-build community project in order to find out what dissuades people from this type of scheme.
- Financiers in order to test the perceived investment potential of eco-self-build community projects and to investigate what loans and investment agreements may be available.
- House builders from conventional property companies in order to find out why conventional house builders are not interested in the proposed concept, and what the construction challenges may be.
- House builders who build “green” homes in order to investigate the challenges and opportunities they have faced and the lessons they have learned from building sustainable homes.
- Land Agents to understand issues around purchasing land.
- Entrepreneurs, particularly those with property experience and ethical entrepreneurship expertise in order to understand how innovative, sustainable, community led projects can be developed into a business. The entrepreneurs interviewed were all from the mentor network of the London Business School entrepreneurial summer school.
- Local and regional planning representatives in order to understand the impact of current housing development policy, the impact of any likely changes in planning policy, how planning decisions are made, and how these may impact on the success of eco-self-build community projects.
- Self-build organizations to further understand the challenges and opportunities of the self-build market and the customer demand.
|Stakeholder group||Description of interviewees||Interviewee reference|
|Potential customers||Ten people who came to the Ashley Vale eco-self-build site and stated that they would love to live there and would be likely to take up the opportunity if it was presented to them.||1–10|
|Self-builders, semi self-builders and residents of the Ashley Vale site||Ten representatives from the Ashley Vale self-build site.||11–20|
|One representative from Findhorn self-build community.||21|
|People who would not be interested||Three people who came to the Ashley Vale eco self-build site stating that they would not do a self-build or would not live like this.||22–24|
|Financiers||Senior business manager from Natwest Bank||25|
|Investment manager from Triodos Bank||26|
|One business angel||27|
|House builders from conventional property companies||One representatives from Crest Nicolson||28|
|One representative from Berkeley Homes||29|
|Development Director of Tutti-Frutti self-build development at Urban Splash||30|
|House builders who build “green” homes||Managing director of Ecos Homes||31|
|Director of Living Villages||32|
|Developer of Springhill Cohousing in Stroud||33|
|Land Agents and Owners||Land sales representatives of Knight and Frank||34|
|Land sales manager from Mag Allen Auctioneers and Land Agents||35|
|Director of the Landbank Partnership||36|
|Member of the Policy Team of English Partnership||37|
|Entrepreneurs||Three entrepreneurs from the mentor network at London Business School, who have relevant background (sustainable energy, property development, social ventures)||38–39|
|Local and regional government||Planner in Stroud Town Council||40|
|Planner for Bath and North East Somerset Council||41|
|Member of Sustainable Projects Team, Bristol City Council||42|
|Self-build organisation||Representative from Buildstore||43|
|Director of Ecomotive, a charity which supports self build housing.||44|
|Representative of NaSBA (National Self-Build Association)||45|
|Land owners||English Partnership representative||46|
|Two individual land owners||47,48|
- Interviewee 20: A tenant living at the Ashley Vale site (also referred to as the Yard):“Whenever I tell anyone that I live in the Yard they say: Whow, how did you manage that, are there any other places coming up?”
- Interviewee 12 and 19 (eco-self-builders from Ashley Vale) report on response of visitors who come to the Ashley Vale site because they have heard about the interesting looking houses:“This is amazing. How did you do it? Can you tell us how we can do the same?”
“As a group you are up against professional property developers who can act quickly when a good plot of land becomes available. Compare this to a group of individuals who have to agree on price at which to bid, have to get funding individually, and have to agree on a structure to manage the community build. As a result it can take much longer, and there is a lot more uncertainty and delay for the landowner, who unless ethically driven is more likely to accept a cash bid from a property company”.
5.1. Design of Community/Site
- A mixture of fully self-build, semi-self-build and completed homes is desirable
- Design features and site characteristics
- A good place to bring up children
A mixture of fully self-build, semi-self-build and completed homes is desirable
Desirable design features and site characteristics
- Interviewee 3: A pensioner visiting the Ashley Vale site:“I would love to move to a place like this and finally build my dream home, a place where I’d love to retire to, with a real sense of community and life.”
- Interviewee 5: A single man living at the Ashley Vale site:“I was searching for opportunities to do the right thing. I buy fair trade coffee and organic food. It was great when finally the opportunity came up to make an ethical choice towards the purchase that most people take most pride in: your own home.”
- Interviewee 11: A young man who built a house at the Ashley Vale site:“I was not really aware or interested in sustainability prior to joining Ashley Vale Action Group. I was simply interested to building my own dream home. I have learned a lot about sustainability and climate change and have changed the way I am doing things.”“Many of us are now working from home and have designed our homes and community to enable this. There is a yoga teacher who teaches yoga in the yoga room in her house, people working from home from a home office, and a furniture maker with a workshop. At the weekend many of us choose to stay on site rather than traveling far to socialise. This means that we spend much less time in the car getting frustrated with traffic and polluting the planet”.
A good place to bring up children
- Interviewee 13 and 14: a young couple who purchased a home at Ashley Vale:“We want to have children and we want to bring them up in a safe place and show them that one can make a difference.”
- Interviewee 17 and 18: a couple who has built a house and are living at Ashley Vale:“It’s not just about doing what we believe in, it’s also about improving our lives. It’s much easier here to look after our children. They can play on the communal land or on the street safely and they spend time with the neighbor’s children or the neighbor’s children come round to ours. This way it is easy to leave your children with a neighbor when one needs to, and we do not spend endless amount of times going to organized play schemes, etc. Our 5 year old is very confident at talking to other adults and children and is already organizing his own play and sleepovers with his friends in our neighborhood. It’s like going back in time were people lived in big families, with all the benefits, but without being told of by your mother in law.”
- Interviewee 20: A single parent building a house at Ashley Vale:“I had to move her. It wasn’t really a question of how much money do I have and can I afford it, but how do I find the money that it takes. As a single parent I had to be in a safe community, with this support framework, the ability for my son to play with the other children and to mix with adults other than myself. I had no money myself at all but I managed to scrap it together and borrow from generous relative who wanted to help me.”
- A good place to bring up children
- Green lifestyle
- A close-knit community feel
- Quality of construction
5.2. Barriers/Support for Communities
- A supportive Local Authority should be a site selection criteria
- A tight legal structure that achieves the right balance between choice and structure
- Land owners and deal structure
- All stakeholders, particularly the clients value the shared purpose
- Take people impact into account when choosing eco and low carbon features
- Offer support to self-builders
- Sustainable community eco-self-build developments can improve the neighborhood overall
A supportive local authority should be a site selection criterion
A tight legal structure that achieves the right balance between choice and structure
Land owners and deal structure
All stakeholders, particularly the clients value the shared purpose
Take people impact into account when choosing eco and low carbon features
Offer support to self-builders
Sustainable community eco-self build developments can improve the neighborhood overall
5.3. Financing and Timing
- Customer types and characteristics
“Because it was a nice place to work with a vision for the environment, people were keen to work here and would typically charge less than for other projects. To get more work and be recommended on site they’d make a special effort. For us self-builders working on each other’s houses we also wanted to do a good job for our future neighbors and friends, as we knew they’d do the same for us. It was a bit of a culture where everyone took pride in what they were doing”.
5.4. Customer Types and Characteristics
|Constellation/Age||Detailed description||Total budget||Self-build or complete||Size required||What is important to them?||People interviewed |
|Single parents or single parents to be (20–40)||These are single parents who have recently left a relationship and need somewhere to live. They are driven by finding somewhere good for their child/children, where being a single parent is made easier through access to playmates, sharing childcare responsibilities with neighbors and through the ability of their child/ren simply to go outside and play with the other children, which means that daily trips to playgrounds are no longer necessary. They have financial support from a family member or their ex-partner for buying into the scheme.||£100–£200k||Self-finished or fully completed||2 to 3 bed||Good place to bring up children. Easier to look after your children.||2|
|Single individuals, or couples on low income (25– 35), first time buyers||These are individuals or couples who would like to get on the housing ladder, but with a single income find it difficult to afford anything. They are likely to have a professional job. They do not need a large space, but are attracted to living in a quality home, in a safe neighborhood and/or in an eco-friendly home.||£70–£140k||Self-build, self-finished or fully completed||Studio to 2 bed||One or all of the following: Good design, eco-friendly, good neighborhood, good investment||4|
|Younger couples (25–40) /families||These are couples with children or are planning to have children in the near future. They are more cash constrained and may by first or second time buyers, and use the self-build route as a means of building a house at modest costs. They need space especially if they have or are planning to have large families.|
This is a group of self-builders for whom the greatest demand shortage exists in the UK. This group significantly benefits from the eco-self-build community concept due to its child friendly design.
|£ 150– £250k||Self build or self completed||3 bed or more||Getting more house/size for less money, good schools, and communal garden with direct access from their own home/garden, save streets, other children.||5|
|Professional couples or individuals on high income, (30–50)||These are hard working professionals with good careers and little time. They are attracted to the idea of living in a green community. Some of them may consider having children, others simply like the design of the houses and the fact that they are doing their bit for the planet. They may also like the community feel.||£250 to £500k||Fully completed, or off-plan with design input||2 to 4 bed||Quality design, greenness, community, high ceilings, large windows, good sized rooms, extras.||3|
|Mid career and retirement couples looking to build their dream home (50+)||These belong to the majority of current self-builders in the UK. They are couples in their middle age or nearing retirement. They often own their own home, or a high proportion of the equity. With their children now grown up they decide to build the dream home they have always been keen to have.||£250– £400k||Self build or self finished||2 to 4 bed home with garden.||Individual design, quality, security, local amenities, community, feeling that it is a place where they would like to spend their retirement.||3|
|Mid career and retirement couples ready to downsize after children move out (50+)||These are simply looking to move into a place to get old. Contrary to the previous category, they are not interested in getting involved in the construction process itself, rather they are looking to purchase something already complete.||£250 to £400k||Fully completed||2–3 bed||Community feel, quality design, greenness.||3|
|Buy to let investor||The likely investor is attracted to the idea of investing into something sustainable that delivers higher long term returns than alternative investment. They are likely to feel that property is a good area to invest into, and that the eco-self-build community concept delivers a long term premium return on investment and rental value. Likely rental groups they target would be young individuals who are attracted to the sustainability and community feel and amenities.||£90 to £200k||Fully completed||Studio to 3 bed||Rental value, attracts good responsible tenants, long term growth in value of the property greater than its conventional counterparts.||2|
|Off-plan and building plot investor||The off-plan investor speculates on the increase in value of the homes once the first self-build homes are completed. As observed at the Ashley Vale Site plots sold at twice the price once the first houses started taking shape. They either buy a house, or purchase a plot and commission an architect to design and manage the build for them. Some may like to play a part in managing the build themselves. They could be interested in a single or multiple properties.||£150 to £500k||Fully completed||Studio to 4 bed||Sales value||3|
|Investors who invest in the fund||These are individuals who rather than putting their money into the bank would like to gain greater returns through investing. They may also be drawn to its worthy cause.||£5 to £20k||% ownership of shares in the fund.||Studio to 4 bed||Sales value, greenness.||4|
5.5. Critical Factors in Building Eco-Self-Build Communities
- Select participants based on the social capital that they can bring—therefore sell at a fixed price, to people you interview and take up references. Participants must be motivated to live sustainably, have the know-how and finances to do it, be likely to contribute and to be proactive.
- Create a child friendly development—this is by far the most important factor that potential residents seemed to be attracted by.
- Land deal—land is the largest expense for self-builders. Therefore it is an important factor influencing financial profit margins.
- Community provisions whilst creating spaces for privacy—the design needs to allow both for privacy and encourage community interaction.
- Support to self-builders—A hand holding support service for self-builders is very likely to increase the available market size. In addition training in eco-construction methods is likely to lead to better environmental performance.
- A shared purpose—the shared purpose of creating a brighter greener future is important for bringing the community together. The shared purpose is vital for achieving low carbon lifestyles within the development.
6.1. Meeting Customer Priorities
|Reasons given for wanting to live in a sustainable housing development?||Potential impact of the eco-self-build community proposition compared to conventional house building|
|It would help me do my bit to save the planet||Self-builders have more input in making decisions regarding the sustainability of their home and can therefore go further.|
|It would reduce the amount I pay on bills||Again self-builders can choose their own energy efficiency technology and directly financially benefit from this choice. Therefore they are able to go further than property developers. In addition they have a personal interest in making sure that the installation is done to high quality and that no energy is wasted due to bad workmanship (e.g., poorly insulated walls).|
|It would increase the quality of life for me and my family||The community self-build concept allows residents to make choices, for example to compromise a larger personal private garden for a communal garden. They can have input into the design in a way that is suitable to their lifestyle, for example not allowing cars on some of the road, or locating the communal garden in a way that children do not have to cross a road to access it. Such choices can directly improve the quality of lives of families. For example, a communal garden with children play features, safely accessible by children can improve life of children and of parents. Instead of taking children to the playground parents can get on with their responsibilities whilst children have continuous access to outdoor play, playmates and physical activity whenever they need or want it.|
|It would be cleaner and “fresher” to live in||Being in charge of the design themselves, self-builders are able to design the home in a way that it feels good, clean and “fresh” to them.|
|It would be a better place for bringing up children||In addition to what is said in row 4, the self-build concept brings together people with a can-do attitude, people who do not shy away from the challenge of building their own home. They get to know and can support each other. They are able to make choices for creating an environment that is better for their children. They can make choices, which are child friendly such as a communal garden where children can socialize with other children and adults. This supports the social development of the children and, for example, may teach them conflict resolution skills, speaking confidently to adults, etc.|
|It would have a close-knit community feel||Building homes together as a group will by default be a way for people to get to know each other even prior to moving into their homes.|
|It would be safer than other places to live||In a place where everybody knows each other criminals are easier to spot and it become harder to commit a criminal offence, and thus leads to a safer environment.|
|It would have cutting edge design and technology||Self-builders are able to choose their own design and technology.|
- Reducing their environmental impact: 54% of people would like to live in a sustainable housing development to do their bit to save the planet . The eco-self-build approach gives people the opportunity at each stage of the design to choose the environmentally preferred option.
- A better place to live: 16 to 25% of people were attracted to one or all of the following characteristics: a safer place to live, increased quality of life, cleaner and fresher, better for bringing up children, close knit community feel . As explained in more detail in the table, the eco-community self-build approach can score highly on all of these.
- Save money: 35% of people are attracted by saving money on bills . The survey did not go into other money saving options. However it is likely that people attracted to saving money on bills would also be drawn to other money saving opportunities. Here the self-build approach delivers many opportunities for significant financial savings through taking part in the building process and tax breaks.
- Cool technology features: 16% were attracted to cutting edge design and technology, which is something that many self-builders choose to integrate into their homes . Some examples that our interviewees mentioned were: a ground source heat pump with underfloor heating, a woodchip boiler, solar electricity, passive solar design, and emerging sustainable building materials. All these would be more difficult or impossible to retrofit into an existing home.
- Being close to family and friends—doing a self-build together allows friendships to form, or to build a house for the whole big family, for example through including a granny flat.
- Low crime—a place where the community looks out for each other can reduce crime.
|Priorities when moving to a new home||Impact of the eco self-build community approach||Overall rating of impact|
|Close to family and friends||Community formation and friendships encouraged through building their homes and community together, events places to meet, community activities for volunteers||+ positive|
|Low crime area||Spillover effect due to community formation, there is more care in the community, people know each other, and hence criminals are spotted more easily. Due to this cultural shift where altruism is appreciated there may be less crime, from within the community itself.||+ positive|
|Access to good local schools||This can be taken into account when choosing the location.||0 neutral|
|Quality of construction and finish||Quality of construction is in the control of the self-builders themselves. Driven by personal interest self-build homes are often of high construction quality.||+ positive|
|Number of rooms||Because with self-build people get more for their money, they can afford to have a bigger house, than if they were buying one.||+ positive|
|Access to good local healthcare||No impact, unless a health professional joins the scheme and offers their service to their neighborhood. At the Ashley Vale site people have done this and offered their service at a reduced rate to their neighbors on the site.||0 neutral|
|Good transport links||A carshare scheme and good cycle parking will help. Other site search could use brownfield sites with good access to amenities as a selection criterion.||+ positive|
|Energy efficiency||Basic criteria can be that all homes are designed to meet best practice standards on energy. In addition self-builders can go further if they choose to do so.||+ positive|
|Parks and open spaces within walking distance||A communal garden forms an integral part of the site.||+ positive|
|Internal design and appearance of the house||The internal design of the houses is done by the home owners themselves. Thus it can be in the exact styles and to the taste of the owner.||+ positive|
|Size of rooms||Because with self-build people get more for their money, they can afford to have a bigger house, than if they were buying one.||+ positive|
|Garden||The mixture of small private and communal gardens and balconies allows more flexible and accessible use of outdoor space. A barbeque and play features in the communal garden can encourage its use for communal activities.||+ positive|
|Low noise and pollution||Pedestrianized areas and encouragement of low carbon transport reduces noise from cars. Environmental paints and floor coverings can be used to reduce indoor toxins.||+ positive|
|External design and appearance of the home||With individuals designing their homes themselves using sustainable building materials, the homes are likely to look different and innovative. An overall theme and framework can ensure that the design works as a whole. Self-builders are likely to put more energy into making their homes and gardens look nice, as this is one of the reasons they decide to do a self-build.||+ positive|
|Good local shopping/leisure facilities||To be determined according to site selection||0 neutral|
|Aspect||To be determined according to site selection||0 neutral|
|Renewable energy||Renewable energy solutions will be part of the basic requirement.||+positive|
|Environmental friendly construction material||Environmentally friendly building materials will be part of the basic requirement.||+ positive|
|Access to food from local producers||Areas set aside for growing your own food. In addition organic vegetable box schemes can be recommended. If viability permits a weekly farmer stall can be arranged in the communal garden.||+ positive|
|Quality of fixtures and furnishings||These can be selected by owners themselves according to taste.||+ positive|
|Convenient recycling facilities||Convenient recycling facilities and their management are part of the site design.||+ positive|
|Water saving appliances||Water saving appliances are part of the basic requirement and specific products will be recommended.||+ positive.|
6.2. Environmental Sustainability Check
|Measures||Annual CO2e reduction (tCO2e/household/yr)|
|Low cost energy efficiency measures (air tightness, low e lighting, low flow tabs and showers)||0.3|
|Solar hot water or wood stove||0.3|
|20% increase in waste reduction and recycling through good provisions and awareness raising and shared purpose||0.5|
|15% carbon emission reduction of food carbon footprint through awareness raising and advice on organic veggie box schemes, once a week local farmers market, and shared purpose||0.6|
|25% reduction in commuting transport emissions though choosing a location with jobs close to the homes, increased cycling, car share scheme and public transport, and the ability for people to design their homes so that they can work from home . Ability to work from home and stay at home for recreational activities and socialising through a communal garden.||0.6|
|Low cost building material with low embodied carbon is chosen (timber frame, timber and tile flooring, timber cladding, site construction waste reduction, minimizing the use of concrete and lead)||0.3|
|Awareness raising achieves a further 10% uplift in waste reduction and recycling rates, sustainable food uptake, uptake of sustainable transport options, and home energy management .||0.3|
6.3. Financial Viability
- purchasing land and selling it on to individual self-builders at a premium
- providing advice and support to these self builders
- building and selling sustainable homes
- purchasing of land at a lower rate in exchange for meeting certain sustainability credentials.
Income from provision of support services to self-builders
- Identifying, interviewing and selecting purchasers
- Provision of ongoing advice and support throughout design and construction and with setting up a community organization
- Master-planning and ongoing support from an architect
- Developing a site-specific legal framework for contracts and enforce contracts
- Organizing bulk purchase and negotiate prices on clients’ behalf.
Income from Land Deals
Income from building or part building homes
Income from selling completed homes and from building a show-home
Discussion and conclusion on financial viability
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