Article published in the Building Design & Construction magazine – December 2019
Gusto Homes has been a leading brand in the regional housebuilding scene for more than 20-years, with a well-earned reputation for the style and quality of the homes it builds, and for its innovative approach to the design of energy efficient new dwellings.
Gusto Homes may not be the nation’s largest housebuilder, but is a developer which has been setting the standard for modern, sustainable, and energy efficient housing for over 25 years. Designing and building homes for Lincoln and the surrounding areas ever since 1995, Gusto Homes has slowly but surely established itself as a prominent player in the housebuilding sector, both locally and even on the national scene via the quality of reputation that it has built.
Where Gusto Homes stands out from other developers in the marketplace is in the company’s clear stance on what a developer should provide for customers, and then working to make that commercially feasible both for said customer and for itself, as the developer. Indeed, unlike many of its keen competitors, Gusto Homes pays little to no attention on the minimum standards laid out by building regulations and sets the bar far higher in terms of long-term sustainability and the adoption of modern technologies which appeal to a modern, more environmentally-conscious audience.
Important to note is that while Gusto Homes has been pushing the envelope on the future of modern housing, how and where it has been doing so is important to recognise. Neither aiming for the minimum nor over-reaching into the overly futuristic, the company has maintained clear focus on implementing cost-competitive construction techniques and technologies which allow the company to push out properties which are modern, beautifully designed, energy efficient, but most importantly, affordable for the family who wants to invest in a future-proofed home.
Gusto Homes commenced the build of its first eco-homes project back in 1998, with the Millennium Green project of some 24 homes which used 50% less energy and water than was represented in contemporary building regulations. The project not only set the stage for Gusto Homes to showcase the way forward, but also raised the industry bar and led the company into a series of eco-homes developments. The latest of these, based at Collingham, represents a continued effort to bring the homes of the future to the market in a commercially viable way, such as with solar PV roof panels and ground-source heat pumps to bring affordability alongside sustainability.
As an organisation that works very much on a smaller, but quality-driven pipeline of developments, Gusto Homes also has a lot more time to spend on areas of due diligence and corporate social responsibility. Additionally, the local focus of the organisation over the years has also played a core role here, with the developer being one of the lucky few to garner a positive and integrated reputation with the local community – something which the construction industry often struggles with.
“The company has maintained clear focus on implementing cost-competitive construction techniques and technologies which allow the company to push out properties which are modern, beautifully designed, energy efficient, but most importantly, affordable for the family who wants to invest in a future-proofed home”
This has been achieved through a number of initiatives over the years, including community interaction on projects and also through extensive partnership with the local college.
To learn more about the approach taken, we spoke with Steff Wright, CEO of Gusto Group, who explained: “As a construction company we try to work very closely with the community and always start a job by going to see all the neighbours, sorting out the boundaries, and making sure we have people as onside as they can be. Some people don’t like change by nature and developers do bring change, but we try to manage that process as well as we can. What we also do is tend to use a lot of local contractors and suppliers so we’re investing into the local economy, but because we’re a local company and known locally, we also don’t have the same problems that companies who come and go have. Anywhere we’re working, we’re bound to have people we employ living in that location.”
What’s most impressive with Gusto Homes, however, is the element of partnership with local academia. As many organisations have experienced, talent within the construction sector has become increasingly hard to come by and, through working with Lincoln College, the organisation has been attempting to take an active role in fixing just that. In accordance with this, the organisation has now officially launched a new training facility ECOnstruction centre of excellence.
Based on the college site itself, the centre is dedicated to teaching cutting-edge sustainable and low carbon building techniques to aspiring construction students. The partnership also includes other local construction firms to provide a holistic overview of technologies and techniques in the sector, as well as providing an iconic platform for product and service showcases.
On this note, Steff Wright went on to share: “We have apprentices that go through Lincoln College, and while it is a good construction college, they don’t keep up with the times much like other education institutions. They’re often not teaching based on the new technologies coming through. As an innovative college, they were quite keen to work with us and hence we’ve dedicated an area in the college for the eco-construction sector. We brought in about 20 different suppliers of products and services who will be displaying their products in the space at the college.
The companies will also run their CPD sessions down there, not just to teach students how to install and use the products, but also bringing in local construction companies, architects, and builders to show them what’s out there.”
He added: “One of the things we’ve found as a company is that there’s a shortage of people who know and understand the new technologies and opportunities in the construction industry. If you’re not working with educational institutions to train the generation of the future then this isn’t going to change.”
Looking to the future, Gusto Homes makes it very clear that rapid growth is not in accordance with the ethos of the company. Instead of looking at aggressive growth strategies, the organisation is instead aiming to grow sustainably and carefully as has served the company very well over the last 24 years. Growth is expected however, and Gusto Homes is currently in discussions with a number of local authorities and housing associations from a broader geographic reach to see how its expertise can be utilised outside of its traditional area of operation, and thus grow the business in accordance with rising market demands.
On this note, Steff Wright concluded: “We have got plans for growth, but we’re also very aware that the housing industry is very cyclical and the Brexit situation creates uncertainty. We’re not directly driving growth at the moment but very much positioning and structuring ourselves so that we can grow when the time goes. We expect to see a percentage of this growth coming from working alongside housing associations and as a company, we have 20 years of expertise in designing, building, and delivering high-quality low-energy housing. If there’s going to be a shift to low-energy housing as more and that’s where the demand is from the housing associations and local authorities wanting better quality housing in their local areas.”