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  • Writer's pictureSimon Deen

Green & clean - The future of London

#Londonisback and what a week it’s been. Glorious sunshine, shops and restaurants are open again, and for the first time in a while there is a tangible sense of optimism. Not just in the news and in conversation, but on the street. It’s a week where everyone seems to have had an extra spring in their step.

I’ve spent some early mornings over the past seven days walking on Hampstead Heath, listening to podcasts and enjoying being in nature.

Data released this week by Knight Frank revealed that NW3 (Hampstead, Belsize Park and Hampstead Heath) is London’s third leafiest suburb. Only HA7 (Stanmore) and TW9 (Richmond & Kew Gardens) have more trees per hectare. Interestingly, according to data from Rightmove, Richmond has been London’s happiest borough for six years in a row.

One of the biggest trends to emerge from the past twelve months is the desire of buyers to not only live in homes which benefit from private gardens or terraces, but also to be in close proximity to open spaces. Fortunately, London has plenty of those to offer, and they have provided a much needed respite from some of the mental challenges of living through a pandemic.

Whilst exacerbated by the events of the past year, this is a trend which extends further back than the onset of Covid. For a while now there’s been an increasing understanding of the detrimental effects of air pollution on our health, and at the same time the climate change agenda has established itself fully in the public consciousness.

London is reacting to this trend, both in the desire of developers to provide sustainable solutions to housing and its residents to do their part for the environment. In 2020 alone, over 100,000 electric vehicles were sold in the UK, a 180% year on year rise. We are 5th in the world in the volume of electric vehicles purchased.

What effect will this have on residential property, both in terms of value and the willingness of buyers to consider previously heavily polluted areas? There are a handful of roads in London which immediately spring to mind when thinking about traffic congestion. Avenue Road in St John’s Wood might not be one of them, but it is one of London’s finest locations and yet also one of the major routes in central London.

It’s not too far a stretch of imagination to see a future where the vast majority of cars are electric, and both noise and air pollution are largely a thing of the past in residential locations. Of course this won’t happen overnight, but it’s likely to affect values, as previously less desirable locations are improved.

Property developers are adapting their offerings too. This week Qatari Diar’s Chelsea Barracks Scheme was awarded LEED Platinum certification for its neighbourhood design, one of only 16 schemes in the world to achieve the eco credential. It’s officially the most sustainable development in Europe.

I found the key factors that allowed the development to attain this status really interesting;

  • Accessibility to nature and spaces for social interaction for residents and the wider community.

  • Generous daylight levels and connections to the outside through substantial windows and balconies

  • Ample cycling facilities and electric charging points

  • Sustainable landscape strategies included planting native species, increased biodiversity, and irrigation through water collection

  • Installation of Green Roofs

  • Aggressive recycling of greywater for WCs and washing machines and rainwater for irrigation.

  • Sustainable lifestyles are encouraged through equipping apartments with metering to inform owners of daily energy consumption

  • Low carbon centralised infrastructure

If these aren’t yet key reasons to buy a home, they might be soon. Barely a week goes by where I’m not being told off by one of my children for some recycling related offence. Housing wealth is shifting, and whilst it’s currently held by the Baby Boomers and Gen X (people born between 1946 and 1979), it won’t be long before it’s in the hands of Millennials and Gen Z (people born between 1980 and 2015).

Perhaps these buyers will be focussed on an entirely different set of criteria to the ones that are prevalent today. Wellness, mental and physical health, environmental impact, access to electric vehicle charging points and of course, superfast broadband.

I wonder if in 100 years time, the pandemic of 2020/21 will be seen as a watershed moment in our culture. The year our relationships with work, family and the places we call home changed forever.

Data Provided by Bluesky International, Knight Frank, Rightmove & Prime Resi


Things I’ve been inspired by this week

A podcast with Adam Grant and Jane Goodall about what chimp behaviour can teach us about leadership, and the way humans relate and organise.

“You ask about leadership. Well, Mike became alpha male. But being an alpha doesn't make you a leader, it makes you the boss. And others will be submissive to you and greet you with submissive gestures. But then other males are leaders. They're leaders because they're much more gentle, and other chimps like to follow them, and choose to follow them”

Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. A film by Louie Schwartzberg.


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