Meeting the Home Quality Mark

Cavity Wall Insulation

BRE is developing a voluntary sustainability Home Quality Mark for new homes that will allow developers to differentiate their product in the marketplace. It will recognise performance beyond minimum regulatory standards to provide increased quality and choice for the consumer…

We’ve previously discussed in our blogs the winding down of the Code for Sustainable Homes as a result of the the government’s Housing Standards Review and our firm belief of a need for a measure of differentiation to allow a new dwelling to be able to show that it performs better and more sustainably, than one built to minimum standards.

The BRE have today at Ecobuild, launched their concept for a new quality mark for housing,  based on a new voluntary standard for new build homes that will provide householders with a clear indication of the overall expected costs to them, explain how the home will benefit their health and wellbeing and give an indication of what the environmental footprint of living in that home will be.

Over time, further indicators will be developed from different perspectives including those of the Developer, financial institutions, landlords and local authorities. The indicators will be presented to clearly draw out the value of a property to each of these stakeholders.

The new mark will use an easy to understand, consumer focused rating system, with an overall rating based on a scale of up to 5 stars; it will allow a simple comparison of different homes quickly and easily in terms of their overall performance.

“The Mark will have three sections; Knowledge Sharing, Our Surroundings and My Home. These will each allow for a degree of pre-approval to maximise the cost effectiveness of the assessment process, whilst taking account of issues that are site specific in the final assessment of the development. This will encourage good design but reduce repetition of data collection and entry.”

Some of the critical issues to be addressed as part of the new scheme will include:

Knowledge Sharing

This section will reward good processes and solutions which reduce issues that may arise between the design, construction and occupation for the client and householder. This will help ensure that the so-called performance gap is minimised and that constructed homes are capable of achieving their designed potential.

  • key communication and verification: effective management and communication between designers and builders and verification of key stage activities
  • Skills & Training: encourages understanding of design decisions and training of site operatives
  • Construction Processes: consideration and reduction of energy and waste associated with the building process
  • Commisioning: robust checking and commissioning of  systems to ensure new homes are fully functional and meet quality expectations
  • Householder support: to ensure that the householder is familiar with how their home works
  • Monitoring, sensors & controls: to help householders keep down costs and maximise comfort

Our Surroundings

This section will reward homes built to work with their surroundings to maximise benefits and minimise impacts now and into the future.

  • Site context: consideration of where a home is built, its design, character and layout and footprint as well as infrastructure and provision of services
  • Movement and connectivity: transport provision and local amenities
  • Safety and resilience: considers the risk of and resilience to flooding and safety & security of the home and neighbourhood
  • Outdoors: availability of outdoor space for recreation (privately and communally), growing food and maintaining and enhancing the ecological value

My Home

This section rewards homes that are built to ensure they provide spaces that are healthy to live in but that won’t cost the earth.

  • Home comfort: considers  air quality, lighting and noise
  • Predicted in-use energy: looks at costs, energy footprint and consideration of comfort/temperature and ventilation
  • Materials: considers responsible sourcing, life cycle analysis and low environmental impact as well as durability
  • Water: looking at water efficiency, re-use and recycling as well as monitoring and performance
  • Space: looking at sizing, fuctionality and efficiency

The new mark will fill a gap left by the winding down of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which is in the process of being chopped up and wound down following the government’s Housing Standards Review. Once the Code has been fully wound down, the current government’s policy is that no standards other than the nationally described ones and future building standards will be allowed to be required by Local Authorities as a condition of approval.

The new mark covers a lot of ground, so presumably the process and costs will be akin to those of a current Code assessment? With a voluntary scheme, one wonders therefore, how much general uptake there will be and how that will compare to the previous EcoHomes scheme and the Code itself. Hopefully it will be embraced by the industry, so that it becomes a brand that home buyers look for.

There is a definite concern, that with the government’s drive to generate quantity and reduce burdens on house builders, that possibly quality and sustainability may suffer; therefore a nationally recognised standard that can be utilised to differentiate those homes built to a higher quality for prospective home owners is one that we are happy to support.

 

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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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