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Code for Sustainable Homes under threat in standards shake-up

Code for Sustainable Homes, energy performance certificates and sustainable drainage requirements could be loosened - but Part L tightened

Speaking at the UK Passivhaus Conference last week, Bob Ledsome of the Department for Communities and Local Government suggested that ‘Part L requirements for new homes represent an additional cost on house builders of £103million annually, reflecting an uplift per unit of £1,000’.

He also confirmed that ‘the Code for Sustainable Homes currently remains the governments chosen method for determining the sustainability of new homes’.

However, the government has pledged to remove unnecessary burdens and bureaucracy. Ledsome suggested that to achieve this ‘some elements of the code may be incorporated into the new building regulations’.

The government’s housing standards review will target any requirement that can be applied through planning policies, including all building regulations and approved documents, in a bid to cut house building red tape and boost growth.

The Code for Sustainable Homes and requirements for energy performance certificates are set to be under scrutiny.

The review’s terms of reference states ‘the aim is to achieve tangible deregulation, to enable quality and sustainable housing developments to be brought forward more easily’.

Changes to Part L are due to come into force in October 2013, this is following the deregulation changes which are proposed for April 2013.

Commenting on the proposals, WSP’s sustainability director, David Bowness said: ‘The Government seems to have made the misplaced assumption that building regulations represent red tape. The majority actually serve to ensure a safe, warm, durable home for the general public who will invest a significant part of their working life paying them off.

The Government has the misplaced assumption building regs represent red tape

‘Having already watered down the zero carbon homes regulations and the future Part L 2013 carbon emissions targets for domestic buildings earlier this year, the public could be forgiven for wondering whether this is really the “greenest government ever”.’

The Zero Carbon Hub has recommended that by 2020 at least 90 per cent of homes should perform better than their designed energy and carbon targets, this is in order to target the performance gap, yet it could be a hard ask. The new Part L will see a competence factor built into the regulations, incorporating overdesign to help developers achieve these new requirements.

James Pickard of Cartwright Pickard said: ‘We have a monotony of house builders in the UK. These are allowed to continue building despite consistently failing to meet standards. If these were car manufacturers they would have gone out of business long ago. As there is no requirement to test homes and make sure that they are meeting their designed requirements, these house builders can keep on building homes which are failing’.

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