Stewart Baseley, HBF executive chairman – introductory remarks to industry ‘Environment Summit’

8 Jan, 2020

Stewart Baseley, HBF executive chairman – introductory remarks to industry ‘Environment Summit’


On behalf of HBF, I would like to start by thanking you all for joining us here today as we kick off a busy 2020 with our first ever Environment Summit. It’s great to so many different organisations and businesses represented.

We are fortunate to hear from a number of great contributors here today. But while I will ask Lord Deben and Anouka Dhadda to say a few words shortly, this is not an occasion for me or us to dominate proceedings. The reason we asked you all to join us today is to kickstart a constructive debate and hopefully an effective dialogue between the home building industry and the various other groups, interests, suppliers and policymakers who will be vital to meeting the ambitious objectives we have  to achieve.

I think it’s fair to say that the start of both a brand-new year, and decade, invariably focuses the mind on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. And at the moment, there is no greater task facing us than that of climate change and the environment


Over the past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in attitudes around the importance of environmental issues. This was demonstrated during the recent General Election Campaign with all of the major parties giving considerable space to the environment within their manifestos and concerns among voters were reported to be at the highest levels on record.[1]

Understandably, there is much focus on how we reduce the carbon intensity of new housing.

 We have an emerging regulatory system underpinned by ambitious climate change legislation:

  • We know that housing providers will be integral to the UK’s target, as defined in law, to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050
  • We face an obligation to deliver 10% biodiversity net gain on new housing developments
  • And a Government consultation which seeks a 31% reduction in the carbon emissions from new homes by later this year

Whilst as an industry we are not beginning from a standing start – much has been achieved over the last 10-15 years and new homes built today already produce carbon emissions 70% lower than a typical older property – as an industry we recognise the need to do more and now is the time to take a big step. Part of HBFs role is to help homebuilders understand the scale of what is required  and indeed organising this meeting today hopefully demonstrates our commitment to leading on this issue   

The scale of the challenge

Increasing the energy efficiency of new homes is just one part of the puzzle and the complexity and timescales involved mean these are challenges and opportunities of the type we have not faced before.

Just some of the myriad of issues we face include reducing air pollution, improving water efficiency, enhancing biodiversity, introducing low carbon heating, mitigating the impacts of development on coastal habitats, ensuring flood resilience, reducing disposal of soil waste, cutting carbon emissions, enhancing landscape beauty and enabling electric vehicle charging, to name a few.

All of this needs to be delivered at a time when housing supply is expected to continue to increase and quite rightly none of this can come at the expense of quality

Consumer journey

In addition, making sure consumers understand the benefits is an absolutely vital part of the journey towards a greener future for our housing stock.

New homes are going to change considerably, from the materials they’re built with to the methods that are used to heat them.

As such, we need to ensure that customers understand why these changes are occurring, how to use the new technologies most effectively and the benefits they can deliver.

This is demonstrated by some polling we recently commissioned conducted by Public First. Positively, 54% of prospective buyers said they would be willing to pay more for a home that is zero carbon, further highlighting the increasing importance placed on these issues by consumers.

However, the polling also demonstrated there is a considerable way to go regarding consumer education, with 54% of people also unaware of the energy efficiency of their home when they moved into it.

While it is inevitable that the way we heat our homes needs to evolve, this will be one of the most noticed changes by consumers. Therefore, the technologies used will need to be understood by and work for the consumer if they are to deliver maximum benefits. Today very few households know about heat pumps, for instance.

There are lessons to be taken from previous work on the Zero Carbon Hub which HBF, NHBC and many of you around the table were involved with previously.

Quite simply, while customers’ interest in environmental issues has increased in recent years we need to take them on this journey with us and to deliver a product that works for both their needs and that of the environment.

Working together

Ultimately, home building is just one part of the national approach to tackling climate change and improving the environment but even our role is steeped in complexity, with numerous and sometimes conflicting issues

It is in light of this challenge that we have brought you all together, here today

As an industry, we are committed to delivering on these ambitions, but we simply cannot do it alone

Success requires collaboration and so I am asking you

  • To help us identify the true scale of these issues
  • To work through the associated challenges and opportunities
  • and to establish a cohesive strategy for delivery

To achieve this, we need the expertise of everyone in this room and I really believe that we can only be successful by working together.

Next steps

Moving forwards, we think one effective way to do this is might be by setting up a delivery vehicle, similar to the previous Zero Carbon Hub, which could bring together the broad church of expertise and experience we must call on if we are to rise to our collective challenges. Maybe you have other ideas. Whatever we collectively decide to do I hope today will prove to be an important first step in this process

Thank you again for being here today and I will hand over now to…


Stewart Baseley - HBF
Executive Chairman

Stewart Baseley has been on the board of HBF since 2002 and has served as its Executive Chairman since 2006.