Zero Carbon – Creating the Future – A Developers Perspective

Creating the Future – A Developers Perspective

MLM’s Managing Director, Michael Jacobs had the pleasure of working with Max Smith from
Zero Developments London Ltd. ( on a recent development project. It was an interesting insight into the future of developing to carbon net zero standards. Here’s what Max and Michael had to say about the project.

Max Smith

In early 2019, I was presented with an opportunity to purchase an old car showroom site in SW20, Raynes Park, London. I was keen to take on the challenge of building 35 residential flats at the site.

Having purchased the site and gained planning permission, I wanted to create the vision of a unique Zero Carbon residential development. The goal was to create an easy, affordable and sustainable landing on the property ladder for the apartment owners. The ethos was to deliver sustainable lifestyles to first time buyers with a significant reduction in energy consumption and costs.

Furthermore, the sustainable building would need to be managed with integrity and at a reasonable cost to keep the affordability aligned with the ethos of the building. This certainly was going to be a huge challenge.

There were 3 key factors to achieving our goals from the construction perspective. Each of which may now sound simple and straightforward but every one had a magnitude of complexities to achieve the final outcome. A Zero Carbon scheme that at certain times of the year could actually come ‘OFF GRID’ so the building would be able to run itself.

The zero carbon components could not be successfully fitted post construction as it needed to be built from the ground up to ensure we had an absolutely air tight structure. Both heat gain and heat loss were the main considerations for the main structure. Extra wall thickness on certain elevations, upgraded insulation and ‘passive house’ spec windows needed to be installed to achieve the uValues (thermal coefficient) required.

We then needed to ensure that the energy demands for each flat and communal parts were kept to the absolute minimum without any compromise to comfort. We chose the most efficient air source heat pump and appliances, including boiling water taps to keep the demands as low as possible. Mechanical ventilation was required to help with air flow and to help keep the well-insulated apartments cool in the summer months. The combination of which provided us with the best opportunity to power our building with the lowest demands and therefore become self-sufficient at certain times in the summer months and at a significantly cheaper running cost during the winter months, saving occupants around 40% on energy bills.

Our power plant delivers from a huge array of the latest tech solar panels producing IRO 40,000 kWh of free energy per annum. To compliment the free energy, we have a 135KW bank of Tesla batteries. These store excess solar energy in the summer and in the winter store cheaper off-peak green wind farm energy. The off-peak energy can then be used by occupants during peak time demands to cut the costs of a portion of their peak time usage. The concept is simple but there are a few unique differences between The Zero SW20 and other white box developments.
My quest was to find a suitable property managing agent who was different to all the other property managing agents. This was another challenge to the scheme.

Having been a private landlord collecting a handful of London properties since the early ‘90’s, I have encountered my fair share of property managing agents. These have ranged from atrocious to mediocre but sadly nothing better than that. My experiences over the years have become an education, mostly a frustrating one.

As a landlord and flat owner, I have directly encountered a general lack of care and attention from managing agents. I have sat on hold for far too long and been on the receiving end of sudden increases in charges due to insufficient contingencies and a general lack of foresight. I have been charged an annual fee for the pleasure to let my own property and only been left with a bitter taste at my expense.

I did not want the same experience for my building and not for my future occupants. Like the rest of the building, I was in search for something a little more tasteful and refreshing: a property managing company that would embrace the ethos of the project that the team and I had been working tirelessly on for the past 3 years.

Having tested the market to find a suitable company, I was finally introduced to Michael Jacobs from MLM property management by my design team. We met on site and spent some valuable time together walking around the skeleton of the building. Michael asked all the right questions and understood the key elements that could potentially attract maintenance costs including ones that I had not thought of. It was soon clear to me that Michael had considered all the potential pit falls that needed to be carefully reviewed in the product maintenance contract from the outset. “The Devil is in the detail,” he said. Michael has helped me to review lift, sprinkler and other manufacturers’ service agreements and assisted me in negotiation enhancements to these contracts that will reflect back into the ongoing service and charges. Michael has assisted me with the freehold and the leasehold options and documents. It has certainly been an education working with Michael and gaining some knowledge from the wealth of experience he has in his field. I am now more than confident of Michael Laurie Magar and Michael’s knowledge, integrity and that our approach to sustainability and customer care is perfectly aligned.

He has presented both a comprehensive and competitive package and continues to fine tune the details as we progress.

I am therefore very pleased to announce that last week we have instructed MLM Property Management; we will be working with Michael and his experienced team to build the future of “The Zero”. I look forward to a long lasting working liaison with Michael and MLM Property Management team.

Michael Jacobs, MD of MLM comments, “It has been an incredible learning curve to marry and implement the vision of the development team with the need to provide a cost effective management plan for this exciting and ground breaking development which uses a host of new technology to achieve its goals. This technology provides a peek into how the next generation of eco friendly, net carbon zero developments will be built and managed. We are very exited to be helping Max and his team deliver this scheme and look forward to being able to implement the management plans we have made”.

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