Government’s dismantling of the Code for Sustainable Homes leaves many issues unanswered
‘Throwing the ecological baby out with the red tape bathwater’ is how Fionn Stevenson, head of Sheffield School of Architecture, views the government’s hasty dismantling of the Code for Sustainable Homes.
Introduced in 2007, the Code has come under scrutiny as part of the Housing Standards Review. If the Deregulation Bill (which includes the Housing Standards Review) proceeds through the Lords as anticipated, it will be granted Royal Assent in March, rendering the Code a short-lived relic of the past. That means planners will no longer stipulate a Code Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 as a planning condition for residential developments.
The government claims to be abolishing the Code to consolidate housing standards and regulations – no doubt a good thing. Yet many issues critical to housing quality are left wide open. Daylighting, materials and ventilation, central to the comfort and wellbeing of residents and at the heart of good design, are not addressed. This is worrying, because housebuilders will often only deliver to the lowest required standard.
But the overhaul of standards is the ideal opportunity to address the performance gap. Government should insist on certification of as-built schemes to ensure they are constructed as designed. To drive change through the market, what we really need is environmental labelling – akin to appliance labelling – for housing. Only then will consumers be equipped to evaluate and demand greener homes.