Posted on 30th October 2018

Building tomorrow’s homes


Innes Smith, Chief Executive of Springfield Properties, one of Scotland’s leading private and affordable housebuilders, discusses the importance of building homes that will work for the customer for years to come.


Technology is rapidly evolving, environmental awareness is increasing and with this, the way our customers are using their home is changing. Homeowners want their heating to be affordable, and better for the environment, they want to have a good internet connection throughout their home and they want a home that will work for them for many years.

At Springfield, we think about what our customers are going to want and need in the future, and give this to them now. So we’ve teamed up with internet providers to give our customers the fastest broadband available, we use hybrid heating systems, and provide high levels of insulation. We offer flexible designs and we include cabling for an electric car charging point.

Advancements in the car industry are having an impact on the homes we are building today.

The UK Government has predicted that by 2040, as a result of efforts to reduce pollution, new petrol and diesel cars will no longer be available.[1] So, in the not so distant future, electric car charging points will become an integral part of the home.

This has been a particular focus in Scotland. The uptake of electric vehicles here is rising faster than the rest of the UK with a 68% increase on alternative fuel vehicles from 2016 to 2017. Last year, the Scottish Government pledged to phase out fossil fuel vehicles in Scotland by 2032.[2] To demonstrate their commitment to this, the Scottish Government has started work to upgrade the A9 to make the road the first fully electric enabled highway in Scotland.

The accelerating shift towards electric vehicles in Scotland has prompted us to fit specific heavy duty cabling routed through the home to an external point as a standard feature in our new build houses. This will make the retrospective installation of a charging point much easier and far less intrusive for customers once they move into their home.

Should a Springfield customer decide to switch to an electric car, there are Government grants and schemes already available to them that fund charging points and installation in the home. At this time, developers are not in a position to offer the full installation of a charging point as not all electric cars can be charged from the same charging points.

By fitting the cabling to a point in the garage, customers are free to apply for a grant as and when they make the decision to switch to an electric car. They will then have a charging point that suits their needs.

Advancements in technology continue to have a significant impact on the design and build of homes today as well, particularly when it comes to the internet. Twenty years ago 9% of homes in the UK had wireless internet. When we look at this figure today, it’s risen to 90%.

The internet has essentially become another utility. As such, customers expect a good broadband connection in our homes. The number of devices that require an internet connection in the home is increasing with 78% of adults having a smart phone, 58% owning a tablet and 42% with a smart TV in their home today. Smart thermostats and heating systems controlled by smart phones are also increasing with over 500,000 installed across the UK in 2017 alone, bringing the total of homes using this technology to 1.5m.[3

As we rely so heavily on the internet, broadband speed is high up on many buyers’ wish lists. We’ve teamed up with Openreach who have committed to offer ultrafast broadband on new build developments across Scotland, including Springfield’s 3,000 home village, Bertha Park in Perth. It’s a fantastic initiative for house builders, and a desirable feature for home buyers. Infrastructure for fibre cabling is fitted to each home on the site providing customers with broadband speeds up to 1gbps. With Internet speeds like that, customers will be able to download a Blu-ray movie in two minutes, a high definition TV episode in eight seconds, or an MP3 file in less than one second.[4]

We’ve also implemented inexpensive solutions such as sockets with USB ports to respond to the way technology is impacting our lives, making our homes work for our customers long into the future. We offer extra sockets around the home and we’ve designed a router hub by the master socket in a cupboard so Springfield customers can neatly store their router and cables.

Springfield use innovative heating solutions that emit less carbon dioxide than traditional systems as well. This is better for the environment and cheaper to run which is great news for the customer.  Take PV solar panels for example. These are becoming increasingly popular on new builds, and for good reason. Customers generate their own energy for heating, and the energy that is not used can be transferred to the grid, offsetting their bill. So essentially, the customers are selling their green energy generated from their PV solar panels to their energy supplier. 

Our homes are also fitted with hybrid boilers. This is effectively a gas combi boiler paired with an air source heat pump and is said to use 35% less energy than a traditional boiler.[5] They are fitted with intelligent system software too which calculates the most cost-effective heating method, either gas or electricity, based on the energy tariff costs at that time. This is great for our customers as they have a home that is more affordable to run.

Fuel poverty issues affect far too many families in Scotland. Passive housing aims to address this. For a home to be classed as ‘passive’, the design and the build needs to be approved by Passivhaus. For this to happen, the homes must be as air tight as possible, built with high levels of insulation, triple glazed windows and efficient heating systems.

As a result, the homes require minimal energy to heat, meaning they are dramatically cheaper to run. Springfield is still exploring passive housing at present, but it is something we can see becoming a requirement within the next ten years.

As technology is continuing to evolve, we are learning how to achieve things with the impact on the environment in mind, while making life simpler for our customers and saving them money. It’s important we continually review and assess the bigger picture to build the best homes we possibly can for our customers. I’m excited to see what Springfield will be building in 20 years time!