Housing Standards: The cost of the Code and future targets

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What are the future housing standards targets and what has happened to the Code for Sustainable Homes? This blog post discovers what’s been going on…

DECC have released for comment new draft technical housing standards following on from their 2013 Housing Standards Review (HSR) and the published outcomes from that consultation.

The consultation on proposed new standards can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/housing-standards-review-technical-consultation and closes on 7th November 2014.

The HSR’s objective has been to simplify and rationalise the large number of standards a local authority (LA) might apply to new homes, with the intended effect of reducing the burden to house builders from additional standards for new developments. The idea being that fewer requirements will reduce or eliminate uncertainty, unnecessary delay and administrative process costs.

The new standards will, it is claimed, underpin the delivery of high quality housing whilst ensuring that the overall cost of development is reduced.

Possible additional LA requirements will therefore be limited to:

  • Security standards to ensure homes are better protected from crime
  • Optional standards to meet the needs of older and disabled people
  • Higher water efficiency standards to ensure that new development is sustainable
  • A new national space standard for new dwellings, to enable local authorities, communities and neighbourhoods to influence the size of development in their local area.

The overall policy is to phase out the energy standard related to the Code for Sustainable Homes and not to introduce any additional standard above Building Regulations. LA’s with a current plan requirement will be able to ‘port’ the carbon compliance requirement (i.e. the ENE1 requirement) into their policy until such time as the zero carbon build standard policy is in place nationally from late 2016.

The extra costs to achieve Code 4 over usual industry practice (L1A 2013) for a medium scheme size, have been published in the impact assessment accompanying the latest consultation documents and some of the figures from that document are reproduced below:

1B

Apartment

2B

Apartment

2B

Terrace

3B

Semi

4B

Detached

Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 (renewables as primary heating) £287 £662 £631

£790 £1,103 All Code requirements
£241 £616 £585 £741 £1,054 Energy Credits only
Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 (fabric first + PVs) £441 £574 £865 £978 £1,315 All Code requirements
£395 £528 £819 £929 £1,266 Energy Credits only

This shows that the additional costs associated with achieving Code 4 (or just the energy credits bit) are hardly excessive, especially when the energy efficiency savings to the house purchaser are considered.

A better fabric limits heat losses through the building’s envelope over its entire lifetime – it is better to not need as much heat over a long period, than to compensate for a higher fuel demand.

The Government announced in June 2014 that it would be taking further steps from 2016 to raise the requirements of Part L further in respect of the energy efficiency and carbon emissions targets. This will be done after full consultation with industry and will be subject to a separate impact assessment that considers the costs and benefits of doing so.

The proposed 2016 standard will be “around the level of Code for Sustainable Homes level 4″, but until such time as that zero carbon policy is in place nationally, local authorities will be able to continue to ask for a higher standard on energy, but have been “encouraged to not go above Code level 4″

This will in general, limit LA requirements for a higher level to a 19% improved dwelling emission target above the building regulations and this allowance will be withdrawn from late 2016.

The London Plan already requires energy levels higher than Code 4 for new developments – the phrasing “encouraged not to go above Code level 4″ is presumably wriggle room for them to still vary their local target until the 2016 regulations change at least.

Without clear stepping points in between Code’s 4 and Code 5 (zero carbon), I can understand government’s and house builders concern about potentially having a number of different targets in different Local Authorities between those two levels; however a defined interim higher level could and perhaps should have been considered. The Zero Carbon Hub’s proposed on-site cost effective limit was based on 52% of the way from 2010 levels towards zero carbon, so it shows that going further can still be cost effective and there will be circumstances where a Local Authority might not be keen on permitting developments in certain areas, but might be swayed by an exemplar project built to a higher standard.

Based on the usual transitional lag in building practices, even if we do get a new Part L in 2016, the country won’t be building to those levels until around 2018/2019 or later – so it will be interesting to see what happens over the period when higher targets cannot be mandated, but also aren’t yet required.

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About

Jon Ducker is a qualified energy assessor working for Kingspan Insulation Ltd. He has an extensive knowledge of energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and sustainability in buildings with an expert knowledge of the relevant sections of buildings regulations and standards and their interactions with SAP. He provides authoritative advice regarding energy assessments for a wide range of public and private sector clients.

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