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UK: Code for Sustainable Homes to be overhauled

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On 16th December 2009 UK Housing and Planning Minister John Healey has launched proposals for a more consumer-friendly green rating for homes that will help green-proof properties and reduce future utility bills by up to nearly £1500 a year in the most energy efficient homes. Mr Healey has pledged to improve the Code so that it's easier for consumers, whether they are developers or individuals simply wanting to grade and track the sustainability of their properties.

The Code for Sustainable Homes was introduced in April 2007 as a standard to improve the overall sustainability of new homes. 'The Code' scores against a star rating system, using one to six stars depending on how the property performs against categories such as energy use, waste, materials and water.

The Code is rated from one to six, one being the entry level - above the level of the standard, mandatory Building Regulations - and six as highest, reflecting exemplar sustainable development. In the first two years, over 300,000 have been registered to build to Code standards, and nearly 2,000 homes have completed Code certificates.

The improved star rating system will also take into account the tougher new rules for energy efficiency in the building regulations, coming into force from 2010 and the longer term proposals for energy efficiency standards in zero carbon homes. The Code will reflect these mandatory requirements giving people the opportunity to build to tomorrow's standards today and save more on bills.

John Healey, said: "Our homes account for a quarter of UK carbon emissions, so it's clear they are a vital part of our efforts to tackle climate change. The talks in Copenhagen have underlined the need for us to act now, so we need to ensure that people who want to greenproof their homes get a helping hand, not red tape.

"The Code has proved its worth but now is the time to make it a more user-friendly standard for consumers. In the future, this will help drive uptake so people will save more money on bills and reduce the carbon footprint of new homes."

A consultation document will outline three areas for improvement:

  • aligning the Code with the latest developments in the zero carbon homes policy - to enable it to continue to reflect the future regulatory trajectory and provide practical experience for developers and inform the development of detailed regulatory proposals for 2013 and beyond. This includes consulting on the new energy efficiency standard to be required of zero carbon homes
  • streamlining the standard and processes - learning from experience to date, to ensure that the Code is focused on the issues of greatest significance and that we eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy; and
  • resolving problems that have arisen in use - seeking to find practical solutions to barriers that have arisen in the use of the Code so far, balancing sustainability policy aims with the practicalities of house building in the current economic climate.
The Code has a key role in helping people cut their carbon emissions and lead more sustainable lifestyles. The standards reflect the future goals for zero carbon homes and include measures for reducing energy consumption, minimising and recycling waste, reducing potable water demand, reducing the risk and impact of flooding, reducing carbon intensive travel by providing cycle storage as well as facilities for working at home. It encourages a reduction in embodied energy through the choice of building materials as well as the energy used during the construction.
The rating standards are assessed against nine categories:
  • Pollution
  • Heath and Wellbeing
  • Management
  • Ecology
  • Energy and CO2 Emissions
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Surface Water Run-off
  • Waste

So far, building to higher standards set out in the Code has taught developers a considerable amount about low and zero carbon homes, which in turn has helped develop proposals for the next regulatory step in 2010 on the way to zero carbon homes as well as the zero carbon definition for 2016. It is also saving developers money - for Code level 3, the most common level built, there has been reduction in additional building costs of around 6per cent since 2007 as builders gain experience and supply chains are established.

Last month, Mr Healey confirmed that tougher proposals for energy efficiency standards will mean that all new homes from 2016 will have all round better insulated walls, windows, ceilings and floors to avoid any loss of energy. The consultation seeks views on the standard and on the interim standards that will apply from 2013.