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National housing standard ‘could rise from regs bonfire’

PRP chair Andy von Bradsky has suggested a national housing standard could emerge from the government’s bonfire of building regulations

The AJ100 practice boss – who is a key member of the independent panel charged with overhauling the regulations system – said the case for a national housing standard could emerge from the review but was ‘yet to be formulated’.

Speaking at a New London Architecture breakfast event today (9 November), Bradsky hinted that the single, simple standard could include a UK-wide minimum carbon emissions level, a water per person consumption target and a three-tier accessibility model based on the Swedish system.

While aimed at reducing the multiplication of standards at local level, Bradsky said it was yet to be seen how local standards would fit into a national framework but they would ‘inevitably’ remain in some form.

Detailing potential areas for reform, he pointed to confusion and overlapping concerning stairs and windows and suggested Lifetime Homes sometimes failed to satisfy value for money criteria. He added Code for Sustainable Homes could also be reformed.

The proposal follows the London Housing Design Guide which established a common benchmark for housing across the capital’s 32 councils.

Bradsky explained the panel’s main focus was to simplify the regulatory framework, improve efficiency of approvals and maintain and improve quality. He added ministers were ‘mistaken’ if they thought the regulations review could boost house building in the short-term.

‘This will take a long time to resolve in matters of detail,’ he claimed.

Meanwhile, HTA managing director Ben Derbyshire – who contributed to a Housing Forum working group on regulations reform – announced he was keen on greater de-regulation and set out the case for a more ‘consumer-oriented’ housing market.

Speaking at the event, he said: ‘Less regulation is going to improve quality in certain circumstances. [But] deregulation is only half of the story. The other half is the role of the consumer in helping us to building a higher quality outcome in the future.’

Deregulation is only half of the story

Derbyshire said purchasers needed more size and energy performance information to enable them to compare new and old housing before choosing where to live.

He argued freedom to innovate had seen other products such as automobiles and electronics evolve to meet consumer demand. Detailed comparison data for these products was as a result more publicly accessible than it is for new and old housing.

He said: ‘The simple thing to do is to campaign for two simple metrics to be brought out from obscurity and emblazoned on new and second hand housing: energy efficiency and the number of square metres.’

Increasing levels of awareness would in turn lead to demands for higher performance, argued Derbyshire who suggested in the future apps could be used to calculate houses’ running costs.

The building regulations review is taking place alongside an overhaul of planning practice which was also announced last month.

 

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