The government has dramatically upped the ante in its campaign to force housebuilders to build more sustainable new homes.
In a three-pronged attack, Communities Minister Ruth Kelly has revealed details of the new Code for Sustainable homes; plans to strengthen the building regulations; and a new Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on Climate Change.
The new code sets out a star-rating, from one to six, which can be applied to all new homes, indicating how they perform against a strict set of standards.
The move is clearly part of Chancellor Gordon Brown's plans to force all new homes to become zero carbon within the decade, as set out in his pre-Budget statement last week ( Brown commits to zero-carbon homes in pre-Budget report
The PPS on climate change will demand that all new planning strategies be tested on their 'carbon ambition' and, in providing for new homes, jobs and infrastructure needed by communities, shape places with lower carbon emissions and resilient to climate change.
The PPS will also expect new development to be located to optimise their carbon performance and make the most of existing and planned opportunities for decentralised, renewable and low-carbon, energy supplies.
Kelly said: 'Climate change is a real and imminent threat. The recent Stern Report brought into sharp relief the need for urgent international action.
'With a rising population and more people living in smaller households the demands on housing are only set to increase. So it is vital that homes and other buildings are as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.
'Further tough action is still needed to deliver significant energy use reductions in existing homes, but within a decade I want every new home to be zero carbon. This country is the first to set this ambition, and we look forward to our international partners matching it.'
RIBA president Jack Pringle said he was pleased with the government's proposals.
He said: 'Taking new homes to zero carbon within 10 years is an ambitious but necessary government target, and the Code for Sustainable Homes will be fundamental to meeting it.
'I am delighted that the government has responded to calls by the RIBA and others to strengthen the Code, and I welcome the news of moves towards a mandatory approach for new homes alongside building regulation reform.
'Action targeted at new homes can only be the start, and still more needs to be done. The government's manifesto proposed a Code for Sustainable Buildings and I hope to see further steps by the government to tackle the energy performance of existing building stock,' he added. by Ed Dorrell