We recently commissioned a survey on consumer attitudes to sustainable housing.* When asked how important sustainability would be when buying their next home, 83% of people said it would be important or extremely important, while only 6% said it would be unimportant. That headline figure set the tone for the results as a whole.

Interest across a range of sustainability issues was consistently above 70%. Energy use, unsurprisingly, was the issue that received the most support with 85% of respondents agreeing that we should all try to use less energy in our homes to “save the planet”.  What was surprising was the extent of support for other less tangible issues – the use of natural products 70%, health impacts 75%, reducing water use 74%, and having a rainwater tank 77%.

It was clear from these results that consumers have a much more nuanced understanding of how sustainability affects their lives than just reducing energy use for cheaper bills. The survey agency summed up the results like this:

“More people are now not only aware but reasonably fluent in the language and practices of sustainability… When they hear “sustainable” homes, people associate this with saving whether that be saving the planet or saving money. Both are key reasons why a customer would consider a sustainable home.”

There were also two big findings from the survey that we hadn’t anticipated, and these provide real encouragement to bring sustainable products to market.

Self sufficiency

Whilst it may sound quaint and bring to mind old episodes of The Good Life, a desire for some level of resilience and self sufficiency came across from many of the questions. Comments included the “ability to generate your own power”, of being “totally self-sufficient from gas and electricity”, and “less reliant on non-reusable fuels and power sources”. One of the highest positive responses in the survey was where 83% of people agreed with the statement that “I would like my house to be as self-sufficient in energy as possible”.

Frustration at what’s on offer

The survey concluded with an open question to allow respondents to share their thoughts on any issue, and many of these expressed frustration at the lack of action on sustainability for new-build homes. Comments included:

I think builders need to be including things that are sustainable without someone having to buy then do alterations – houses built with solar panels, insulation, etc. already should be done.

This needs to be implemented as soon as possible and should have government backing.

There are not new builds that I know of that do what I would want. Energy efficiency is desperately needed.

Because developers pay lip service to sustainability, I would only be interested in an individual self-build, where I could be in complete control of the build quality etc.

Would ensure I got the home I wanted, not the one the developers wanted to sell.

Would indicate a positive future for the housing industry.

The construction industry is notoriously slow to innovate, but what these survey results make clear is that consumer demand is strong for a change to more sustainable homes.

* Attitudes to Sustainable Housing, Uncovering Key Consumer Insights, prepared by Multiply Agency Insight and Innovation Team, Aug-Oct 2018. All figures quoted are based on the outcomes for the Target Audience, defined by the survey as adults in the UK aged 25-64 in the ABC1C2 band.

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