Previous post:

Next post:

Finally – The Code for Sustainable Homes is published

by Mel Starrs on December 13, 2006

in Code for Sustainable Homes

It’s been a long time coming (public consultation on the code was between 4 December 2005 and 6 March 2006) and it won’t be enforced until April 2007, but today the Code for Sustainable Homes (pdf, 28 pages) was published. Full technical guidance on how to comply will be issued in April.

Some reaction has already been issued, TCPA here (they comment on the fact that this applies to housing only at this stage), BBC here (they mention the proposal to bring water use into the Building Regulations), Building here (subscribers only), Guardian here (controversially – “The House Builders Association dismissed the plan as “gesture politics” that threatened to undermine the government plan to build tens of thousands of new homes in the south-east.”), BRE are more optimistic here, EST here.
As I predicted last week, the definition of zero carbon housing has been clarified as:

A zero carbon home is one with ‘zero net emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from all energy use in the home’. The definition encompasses all energy use in the home (including energy for cooking, TVs, computers and other appliances) rather than just those energy uses that are currently part of building regulations (space heating, hot water, ventilation and some lighting). It means that over a year there are no net carbon emissions resulting from the operation of the dwelling. This could be achieved either through steps taken at the individual dwelling level or through site wide strategies. So it will not be necessary for each dwelling to have its own microgeneration capacity where development level solutions would be more appropriate.

As expected, the Code builds upon EcoHomes, and from April 2007 CSH will replace EcoHomes for new housing in England. For those of us who are accredited EcoHomes assessors, we will be able to carry out CSH assessments. From the BRE website:

Compliance with the Code Assessment will consist of a two step process – an initial assessment at the design stage and final certification after construction as detailed below:

  • Design Stage Review
  • Based on design drawings, specifications and commitments
  • Results in interim certificate of compliance
  • Post Construction Review
  • Based on the design stage review
  • Confirmation of compliance including site records and visual inspection.

The rating system is from 1 star to 6 stars. The BRE think that a 3 star is equivalent to EcoHomes ‘Very Good’. The categories will look very familiar to anyone used to EcoHomes. The main changes from the old EcoHomes scheme are that minimum levels have been set for energy and water at each ‘star’ level (theoretically, in EcoHomes if you do fantastically well in every other section, you could do badly in these two and still claim and ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’ rating). The rest of the categories retain the flexibility EcoHomes had.
flexibility.jpg(click to enlarge)
My initial thoughts:

  • I would have liked to have seen this code as mandatory. Until April 2008 it is voluntary only and after that it will be up to the results of the consultation. At least the voluntary period running concurrently with the consultation ought to speed the process up a little.
  • I’m happy to see that PCR’s (post construction review) are mandatory
  • The starting point for a 1 star building is a 10% improvement on Part LA 2006 – had the scheme been mandatory, this would surely have been set at the same level as Part L1A – so what does this mean for the future development of both CfSH and Part L1A, which will now become inextricably linked?
  • Mention is made of the BRE Green Guide 2006 – I look forward to it’s publication. Ecopoints are mentioned as an aspiration for the future.
  • Some of my favourite bugbears of current housing are there – space for home offices, cycling facilities, composting facilities and waste and recycling facilities – could this spell the end for the two-bed shoebox apartment blocks that are springing up all over Leeds? Developers may be forced to look beyond the bottom line, and start providing spaces which are livable in.
  • It is not clear how the star system will relate to building labelling which will be brought in in response to EPBD. The vast majority of existing housing would fail to gain a 1 star rating? The star rating is said to ‘complement’ the proposed building labelling system.

What does the future hold? The timetable looks like this:

  • April 2007 – further guidance issued and the code becomes voluntary
  • June 2007 – EPBD building labelling becomes mandatory for all new houses
  • April 2008 – CSH possibly becomes mandatory along with a change in Building Regs Part L1A (10% improvement on Part L1A 2006?)? Water use included in Building Regs?
  • 2009 – EPBD building labelling becomes mandatory for all houses which are sold or leased
  • 2010 – 25% improvement on Part L1A 2006
  • 2013 – 44% improvement on Part L1A 2006
  • 2016 – zero carbon housing

Looking into my crystal ball, it is highly probable that in the next review of Part L1A, CSH will become mandatory and the two run side by side. The consultation process for this has been announced today here. The consultation is an interesting read (pdf, 44 pages) but it will be April 2008 before anything from this is implemented. The pace of change is very frustrating.

Today’s publications are great news for new housing, but as many others have pointed out this accounts for only 1% of the housing stock in England. Once EPBD kicks in and sellers begin to realise that their houses are not competing with new build, pressure will begin to build for addressing the problems with the existing stock. Now that CSH is published, let’s turn our attention to the existing stock and really begin to make a difference.