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RIBA backs calls for housing standards to be embedded in regs

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The RIBA has joined calls from the profession to incorporate housing standards into the building regulations

Architects had previously warned that the proposed new housing standards could fail if the government did not embed its new streamlined framework into the regulations.

Responding to the government’s proposed red-tape-busting shake-up of housing standards, the institute said ‘building regulations [were] the best place for standards in the long run’.

The recommendations come despite noises from Simon Brown, the man heading up the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) Housing Standards Review, hinting the most likely outcome was that housing standards would become ‘a stepping stone on route to the building regulations.

The institute has also called for housing standards and planning guidance to be better aligned, taking into account issues such as cycle storage, ecology, daylight and neighbourhood security, all of which risk being abandoned as a result of the housing standards review.

In addition, the RIBA has demanded that the government introduce mandatory minimum space standards for all new homes.

Consultation on the government’s current plans, which include the streamlining of technical requirements into a single housing standard as championed by The AJ’s More Homes Better Homes Campaign, closed earlier this week.

Anna Scott-Marshall, RIBA head of external affairs said: ‘The Government has made some real and very welcome progress in rationalising standards, but the jury is still out on whether the Review will produce a set of standards that will protect and promote quality. Ministers have thus far appeared to base decisions purely on grounds of the impact on up-front development costs, without sufficient regard for consumer needs or the longer-term e costs of poor quality housing.

‘The decision on space standards will be a key test for us. 3,000 members of the public have responded to the consultation in support of space standards and the evidence  underlining the need for them is clear. If Ministers want to act on their desire to improve housing quality then this is a move they no can no longer afford to duck.’

Key points from the RIBA’s consultation response

  • Building Regulations are the best place for standards in the long run - government should introduce a national set of standards as soon as possible. Alongside this, Ministers should set out a clear timetable for standards to be adopted within the Building Regulations
  • Standards should only apply to building performance – standards should only relate to the home itself (e.g. energy performance, space, access). Anything outside the home (e.g. neighbourhood security, cycle storage) should be a planning issue and set out in government guidance
  • Standards and planning guidance reviews need to be better aligned – government must act quickly to ensure that crucial planning guidance is developed on housing design to accompany technical standards. This should include issues such as cycle storage, ecology sunlighting and neighbourhood security, all of which risk being abandoned as a result of the housing standards review
  • Standard viability assessments need to change – government needs to consider not only upfront development costs, but standards based on people’s needs and the longer-term social, environmental and economic costs of poor housing design. This was not taken account of in the Review
  • Government should introduce mandatory minimum space standards for all new homes RIBA research shows that space standards are necessary. Mandatory standards for all homes will create a level playing field between public and private housing. Government should move quickly to include national space standards within the national framework linked to accessibility standards
  • ‘Space labelling’ is needed but is not a substitute for space standards – better marketing information would have benefits for consumers but only if it is set against a benchmark and is accompanied by space standards
  • Government must further explore standards on daylighting – this should include window sizes through standards, whilst also set out a presumption against north facing single aspect homes through robust planning guidance on the orientation
  • The Code for Sustainable Homes should be repealed – it is right for energy requirements to go into the Building Regulations. But important elements of the Code must be covered adequately through planning guidance and local policy
  • A one-stop-shop doc on housing design - RIBA backs the Challenge Panel’s call for a single one-stop-shop document bringing together all technical standards (to be in the Building Regs over time) and planning guidance related to housing
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