By Juergen Riedel, CEO, Ventura
There is growing pressure from investors, stakeholders and society in general to place environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues at the top of the agenda. The Build to Rent industry is no exception. More than ever, residents expect Build to Rent developers to play an active role in raising the sustainability standards of homes, adding social value to the neighbourhoods they operate in, and demonstrating ethical operations across their supply chain.
In the midst of a global pandemic, the value we place on our health and wellbeing has grown. Understandably, residents expect the places they live and work to be safe, healthy environments – and Build to Rent developers have a social responsibility to ensure these needs are being met. This includes sourcing, supplying and fitting out homes with eco-friendly and non-toxic furnishings.
High volumes of flame-retardant chemicals are often used to ensure furniture and furnishings meet UK Fire Safety Regulations, which have remained largely unchanged since their introduction in 1988. Some of these chemicals can be toxic and exposure to them is known to have health implications.
If you take in your surrounding environment, the chances are that some of the furnishings you see will contain flame retardant chemicals – including anything from sofas and chairs to mattresses, curtains and carpets. These chemicals are often made from volatile organic compounds which means they can become airborne or settle on dust particles which are then inhaled.
The hazard posed by these chemicals has been acknowledged by many European countries and US states, with many now being banned from use. The UK government, however, has been slow to revise these outdated regulations. Despite the government carrying out two consultations aimed at updating the fire safety regulations, no changes have come to the fore.
This does not mean that action cannot be taken. While the use of flame retardant chemicals is not stipulated under current UK regulations, in the past it has been difficult for manufacturers to achieve compliance through any other method. This is no longer the case.
Many innovative and safe solutions are now available. At Ventura, we offer fabrics that are woven with a mix of yarns or fibres which have inherent fire retardant properties such as wool, LENZING™ FR or Kanekalon. These not only ensure fire regulations are met but are produced to Cradle to Cradle specifications. Cradle to Cradle certification demonstrates a product is sustainable and built for the circular economy. Understandably these alternative fabrics are more expensive than those treated with toxic chemicals, but it’s a small price for contractors to pay to ensure residents have a safe environment to call home.
Using these fabrics not only protects your residents from exposure to chemicals, but can be used to help market your properties as environmentally responsible.
Build to Rent developers have a responsibility to put the health of their residents first. This means discussing the methods used by their furniture manufacturers to meet fire safety regulations and considering alternative safer solutions.
Residents will want to know the developers they are renting from are doing as much as they can to create spaces that help protect their wellbeing.