Key highlights of Millfield Green’s Net Zero journey;
Wednesday 22nd November 2023 - Inspired Villages’ ninth retirement community, Millfield Green, chose a great day to open its doors to special guests on Wednesday
Data showing the average age of a person moving into an IRC has reduced two years from 79 to 77. A statistic that in its averaging doesn’t tell the story of the two generations that are able to live alongside each other in these communities, as demonstrated by Jan and Eileen. This mother and daughter household at Elderswell, a site a few miles away from Millfield Green in Bedfordshire sit at either end of the scale.
The data also shared that 13,000 homes have
Jamie Bunce, CEO of Inspired Villages kicked the session off sharing why the dawning of the 100-year life make communities like Millfield Green even more important. “The 100-year life is being lived. We know this as we see it in our villages with a resident who turns 107 this month. But of greater importance to the number of years people are living, is a focus on the quality of those years. A longer life is not the goal but living better for longer. Our ageing population statistics are not only glaring but some never fail to strike a chord with me and are part of the reason I got into this sector.
“We currently have over 12 million people in the UK aged 65 and over, this is set to rise to 18 million by 2033. Today, there are two million over 75s living alone with one million of those admitting they don’t speak to anyone for a month or more. Loneliness can be hugely detrimental to a person’s health as revealed in recent WHO research, and as a country we should want more for our elders. I saw an opportunity to make a tangible difference to people’s lives with these types of integrated communities that support every pillar of their wellbeing.”
In addition to wellbeing, the theme of partnership and working together also came through in the discussion. Inspired Villages Head of Sustainability, James Willcox, conducted the tour of the village as guests were shown around its energy centre with Kensa Ground Source Heat Pumps doing their work to keep the EPC A rated village centre warm and welcoming ahead of its first residents moving in next week (23rd November). The importance of strategic partnerships such as this with Kensa really came through as we heard how IVG put ground source heat pumps at the heart of its sustainable energy strategy.
Tamsin Lishman, CEO of The Kensa Group, spoke about how the companies’ aligned missions created the perfect partnership; “One of our values at Kensa is to do the right thing, even if it’s difficult. Inspired’s early adoption of this value was clear from the start, with them seeking out the right partnership to make its news community as energy-efficient as possible.
“Ground source heating is the most efficient way of providing heat to buildings with the benefit of not needing so much electricity generation whilst being cost-efficient for residents. Inspired Villages really leaned into this with Millfield Green and the other villages we are working with them on. What’s so great about working with Inspired Villages is having the opportunity to continue with our mission in providing clean, efficient heating to our ageing population in an innovative and scalable way.
“From drilling the boreholes to serve multiple properties with individual heat pumps as well as a centralised plant room - Millfield Green will be producing more than enough energy to heat its village and keep its residents safe, warm and sustainable.”
As we reached the village centre and entered the central building the conversation moved on to aesthetic features but the theme of sustainability still shone through as guests heard about the carpets made using recycled fishing nets and stuck down using adhesive made from laminate recovered from broken car windscreens, Willcox: “We are hugely proud of what we’ve achieved here at Millfield Green. We had decided as a business it was going to be the blueprint for future villages from an ESG point view so although that came with its challenges and learnings, it was worth it in our view.
“It was also about finding the right balance here. To be as efficient as possible but with Inspired residents at the core of those decisions and with the view that this will be their home and their community, so it needed to be accessible to them too. It’s evolution at a sustainable pace that means our residents are not left behind. Undoubtably Millfield Green is a significant milestone for us but our journey of continuous improvement means we don’t stop here but use this as a fundamental building block.”
Willcox continued: “What’s also been useful has been the measurement we’ve factored into the design. We decided to create four apartments with remote energy monitors to retrieve data on how our systems are working together with resident’s usage habits to ensure we both supporting them in the right way with education but that we are holding ourselves accountable.”
A partner who appreciates this measured and innovative approach is Inspired Villages investor, L&G Capital. Its Head of Sustainability, John Alker, talked about this partnership and why IVG’s trailblazing approach is so highly valued: “In addition to Inspired being driven by purpose and wanting to do the right thing, it brings a data-led approach to evaluate its impact on crucial topics like health. We value that as it helps tell the story of how they’re driving sustainability and social impact with evidence, which is important and exciting for us as an investor as we try to drive change across our portfolio.
“At L&G Capital, one of our strategic objectives as investors is creating assets that deliver positive socio-economic or environmental impact. We look to support action on climate and nature; enable health and wellbeing and drive an inclusive economy. Inspired Villages is a great example of a business that can contribute to each one of those objectives. This is why it’s great to be supporting an organisation absolutely aligned to our purpose, and Millfield Green is a shining example of that.”
Another view that was present in the room was that of the local community thanks to the attendance of Councillor Vicky Malone. Having previously sat on the local Caddington Parish Council, Vicky is now a Local ward Councillor on Central Bedfordshire Council. “As with so many smaller villages, change is something people fear. My constituents thought it might be a closed community but seeing it today, it’s the opposite of that - I even signed up today to be a member of the gym! The focus on community and these great amenities are very welcome additions to the area. We have lost three pubs and another local meeting place in recent times so the restaurant, bar and dog-friendly coffee shop will provide a hub for social connection that is at the heart of all communities.”
Jamie echoed that statement as opposition to planning is a key hurdle in the creation of communities at a local level. “As soon as the local community understand we are not simply a buy to sell model and, as the long-term as owner and operator of the village, we have a vested interest in supporting the wider ecosystem and supporting a thriving local economy, opinions start to change.”
Delivering a village like Millfield Green has been a demonstration of how we can balance the creating a positive legacy of change for our ageing society with an eye on maintaining places and the planet for future generations, with Inspired being stewards of that.”
About Inspired Villages
Established in 2017, Inspired Villages is an award-winning operator and developer of later living communities across the UK.
Each village offers age-appropriate homes with a vibrant community at its heart that enriches the lives of both residents and wider communities thanks to its wellbeing facilities and activities on offer. Backed by a joint venture partnership between Legal & General and NatWest Group Pension Fund, Inspired Villages provides an outstanding lifestyle choice that promotes connected, independent living for longer. www.inspiredvillages.co.uk
Legal & General in Housing:
Legal & General Capital is a major UK housebuilder with a commitment to tackling the UK’s housing crisis. We believe it is more important than ever that we deliver the houses that our society needs to address structural shortages across every dimension of the market. We have delivered 15,000 homes over the last three years, providing homes for all demographics, ages and tenures, whilst looking to make a positive socioeconomic impact on all communities where we build homes. Legal & General has also invested over £30bn in levelling-up regional economies, including through major UK-wide regeneration schemes and has made a commitment to enable all its new homes to operate at net zero carbon emissions from 2030. We build houses to sell and rent, provide lively retirement communities and are seeking new ways to deliver affordable housing.
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