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Leading the Way: Sustainable Construction Practices in Home Building

A synopsis of our conversation with Josie Cadwallader-Hughes, Sustainability Director at Thakeham.

Carbon Experts Live is One Click LCA’s monthly live conversation series where we have great conversations with smart people. Learn more about the series and register for future episodes ici.

For Carbon Experts Live, we sat down with Josie Cadwallader-Hughes, Sustainability Director at Thakeham. Josie doesn’t just view sustainable construction practices in home building through a net-zero lens — she adopts a comprehensive 3D perspective. Her ambition? To foster communities with carbon-neutral homes that are ecologically diverse and best serve their residents.

Watch the full episode on our YouTube channel.

Choosing civil engineering and sustainable construction practices

Josie’s choice of civil engineering was a mild rebellion against her family’s military engineering background. Frustrated by the green home building sector’s slow evolution, she aimed to reform sustainable construction practices. During her studies, she noticed that many practices, surprisingly, still echoed the Victorian era.

The profound influence of housing

For Josie, housing is more than shelter. It significantly impacts lifestyles, transportation, and overall accessibility. She believes home builders don’t just craft buildings — they mold our lifestyles and choices. Her vision goes beyond mere structures, integrating facets like transportation, accessibility, and community well-being.

Commitment to net zero

Josie’s commitment to net zero is reflected in Thakeham’s ambitious targets: By 2025, every home they complete will be net zero carbon in operation. “We need to talk about goals in a way we can understand, which always results in being bold in our targets,” Josie said. She emphasized the importance of outcomes and being ahead of policy mandates to truly make a meaningful impact.

People-centric sustainable home building

Josie’s approach is holistic, emphasizing the individual and community. She believes that if sustainable choices are made easier and more accessible, behavioral shifts toward sustainability will naturally follow. This means not just meeting standards but driving genuine positive change by placing people at the center of decisions.

She emphasized the broader implications of home construction, touching upon lifestyle impacts and the consequent carbon footprint of lifestyle choices.

Designing for everyday life

In our conversation, Josie highlighted a distinct difference between home building and commercial construction: the personal relationship with the end user. For Josie, residential construction isn’t just about bricks and mortar — it’s about the profound impact on people’s day-to-day lives. The emphasis is on well-being, comfort, and, most importantly, understanding the nuances of individual needs. This philosophy and personal approach are cornerstones of Thakeham’s approach to sustainability.

Josie passionately spoke about the real-world implications of sustainable design. Imagine expecting someone to suddenly cycle to work daily — it’s not feasible for many. However, if we make small, practical adjustments, like placing the bike storage at the front of a house for easier access, we can nudge people towards more sustainable choices. Josie’s vision isn’t about enforcing change but designing communities where sustainable actions, like walking or cycling, become the natural choice over driving.

Navigating a sustainable path

  • Clear messaging: Amid a deluge of environmental promises, there is a need for real transparency. Thakeham’s pledge for carbon neutrality by 2025 stands out as a clear and actionable commitment – an example of what architects and designers can do to push sustainability forward.
  • Green finance: There is a wealth of potential in financial mechanisms, like green mortgages, to make sustainable living more achievable.
  • Policy as a catalyst: Uniform policies across the construction industry could accelerate sustainability efforts. A universal standard might very well be the push the sector needs. 

Guidance for the next generation

Josie Cadwallader-Hughes serves as an inspiration for young professionals and sustainability enthusiasts. She underscores the power of continual learning and community engagement. She champions innovative processes, like building life cycle assessments, and emphasizes the need for further innovation.

To the upcoming generation, Josie’s message is clear: question norms, instigate change, and work diligently towards a sustainable future. Her path illustrates the results of dedication, adaptability, and a touch of audacity.

How can One Click LCA help home builders?

One Click LCA aids home builders, developers, architects, and designers in maximizing the decarbonization potential of their projects early in the design phase. Set targets and win more projects by optimizing life cycle carbon impacts in just a few minutes with One Click LCA’s Carbon Designer 3D.

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