What’s achievable on-site? (The Housing Standards Review and the London Plan)

The Housing Standards Review was discussed this week at the Zero Carbon Hub’s ‘Nearer to Zero’ event in London. The main event was the launch of the Hub’s ‘End of Term report’, (which I’ll write about in separate posts), but there were some other important snippets amongst the presentations that are worth discussing; particularly regarding what is considered achievable on-site…

Housing Standards Review

The Housing Standards Review’s mandate was to develop a way forward reducing bureaucracy and making building processes easier. Simon Brown, policy lead at DCLG for the Housing Standards Review and Code for Sustainable Homes, presented on the Review and how moving standards into building regulations is the preferred approach to encourage more building by reducing the costs to builders.

The idea is that Local Authorities will not be able to require higher / other standards beyond what is in the regulations, limiting what they can require house builders to do as a condition of planning. In a nutshell, some additional levels will be allowed for and incorporated into regulations, with additional guidance and allowance for higher targets for Water, Access, Security and Space;  however for Energy, once everything is in place, Local Authorities will only be able to require compliance with Part L. A summer draft package is being developed by CLG with more detail and alongside an impact assessment, with implementation likely by the end of the year.

However, I’d heard via the Association for Conservation of Energy (ACE) that the Government will allow English Local Authorities to continue to be able to set higher than minimum Parts L and F building regulations standards for a while longer yet (until zero carbon is introduced in 2016) and this was echoed yesterday by Ross Hudson, Principal Policy & Programmes Officer in the Development, Enterprise & Environment directorate at the Greater London Authority.

The London Plan

Ross’s presentation was particularly interesting.  The London Plan has set higher energy efficiency standards for some time now, 25% better than Part L has been required since 2010 and they will continue to require higher standards of energy efficiency on site, with 35% better than L1A and L2A targets to be required from 2013-2016.

  • In 2010,  28,181 houses were built to the higher standards, saving 35,598 tonnes CO2/annum over and above what Part L compliance would have achieved.
  • In 2011, 32051 houses were built to the higher level, saving an additional 41,136 tonnes CO2 / year.
  • In 2012, 55,879 houses were built, saving an additional 59,817 tonnes CO2 / year.
  • and in 2013, 43,178 houses were built to the higher requirements, saving an additional 49,474 tonnes CO2/year.

On top of the carbon savings, the occupants of those houses will have considerably reduced heating requirements and thus lower fuel bills.

It’s extremely positive to see how going further on site has proven both achievable at scale and saved massive amounts of additional emissions and fuel costs.

If it’s ‘do-able’ in London, where build costs are by all accounts highest (to the extent that they’re a little worried about allowable solutions, as if it’s cheaper to retrofit elsewhere in the country, locality of spend may be lost), then it should be ‘do-able’ elsewhere.

According to ACE, over 100 Local Authorities have used powers under the 2008 Planning & Energy Act to require higher energy efficiency measures beyond basic Part L compliance and I’ve heard that there has been considerable opposition from LA’s to the curtailing of those powers.

The on-site carbon compliance target for 2016  zero carbon performance will be limited (with allowable solutions to take up the slack), in an effort to keep the cost of building to a minimum.

Government not listening?

The Hub’s original recommendations for carbon compliance were for stepping about half way to zero, however the Government’s response to the Allowable Solutions consultation published yesterday now limits on-site carbon compliance for 2016 to Code 4 (25% of the way there from 2010 level; 19% from 2013 level), as was signposted in the Queens speech.

This watering down of ambition, which was denied in the Minister’s speech at the Hub event yesterday,  is despite the majority of consultation responses (70 per cent of the respondents) in favour of the Zero Carbon Hub’s higher proposal and many others (more than 70%) feeling that the proposed standards did not go far enough

London’s new targets for 35% better than L1A on-site will hopefully show that more can be done on-site.  London’s record so far has been impressive.  It will be somewhat of a backstep once the Housing Standards Review limitations kick in and they have to scale back their requirements.

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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.

0 comments on “What’s achievable on-site? (The Housing Standards Review and the London Plan)
  1. Worth noting the quote from Oliver Letwin MP as well

    ‘We are aware that within that framework, the decision on the commencement date for amendments to the Planning and Energy Act 2008, which restrict the ability of local authorities to impose their own special requirements, must be made in such a way that the ending of those abilities to set special requirements knits properly with the start of the operation of standards for zero-carbon homes and allowable solutions. I hope that will make the hon. Gentleman—and, indeed, my hon. Friends who are concerned about the same question of timing—rest easy. ‘

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