Last edited 27 Dec 2021

Code for Sustainable Homes

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The Code for Sustainable Homes is a method for assessing and certifying the sustainable design and construction of new homes. It was launched in 2006 to help reduce UK carbon emissions and create more sustainable homes. It was part of a package of measures including; Building A Greener Future and Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change.

The Code became operational in 2007. Its implementation is managed by BRE Global.

In 2008, the code became temporarily mandatory with the introduction of Home Information Packs. Sellers were required to issue buyers of newly constructed homes a sustainability certificate (either a Code for Sustainable Homes certificate or a nil-rated certificate). However, in 2010 the requirement for Home Information Packs was suspended along with the requirement for a sustainability certificate.

Until March 2015, the code could be mandatory in England, Wales and Northern Ireland if it was a requirement of a local authority’s local plan, or where affordable housing was funded by the Homes and Community Agency.

The Code is still operational, but is now generally voluntary.

The Code for Sustainable Homes: Technical guide (which is nearly 300 pages long) sets out the technical requirements of the Code, along with details of the assessment process.

The Code requires assessment of the performance of new dwellings both during design and once construction is complete. It measures sustainability against nine categories:

Each category represents a known source of environmental impact for which mitigation measures can be cost-effectively implemented.

Performance targets are set for each area, and these targets are more demanding than those required by the building regulations. Credits are awarded depending on the performance of the dwelling in each area, and weightings are then applied to adjust their relative values.

In addition, mandatory minimum performance standards are set for seven specific areas.

A certificate is then issued which illustrates the overall rating achieved by the dwelling by a row of 1 to 6 stars.

Assessments of dwellings are carried out by Code assessors who are trained, monitored and registered by Code service providers such as BREGlobal and StromaLtd.

In March 2014, in response to the Housing Standards Review (HSR) the government confirmed that it intended to wind down the Code for Sustainable Homes, with many of its requirements being consolidated into a national framework centred on the Building Regulations (ref. Stephen Williams announces plans to simplify housing standards 13 March 2014).

In a written ministerial statement on 25 March 2015, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles confirmed that from 27 March 2015, changes to the 2008 Climate Change Act would mean local authorities in England could no longer require code level 3, 4, 5 or 6 as part of the conditions imposed on planning permissions.

Energy requirements for dwellings will instead be set by the Building Regulations which will be changed to be the equivalent to code level 4.

BRE confirmed that they will support Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) and private house builders who wish to continue to use the code. Gwyn Roberts, responsible for Housing Standards at BRE said, “The Code has been a catalyst for significant positive change in house building – it created a step change in standards, knowledge, products and skills within the sector. However, the Code as a Government standard, hasn’t resonated with consumers as this is key to really driving the market further forward. BRE is now working with the industry to do this.'

Earlier in March 2015, BRE launched a new national voluntary standard, the Home Quality Mark intended to influence the way consumers choose homes to buy or rent, giving them confidence that they are choosing a well built, cost-effective home. It also allows house builders to highlight the innovative features of their homes and differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

NB: On 10 July 2015, the government published ‘Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation’ a government plan for increasing Britain’s productivity. Amongst a great number of wide-ranging changes, the report states, 'The government does not intend to proceed with the zero carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme, or the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards, but will keep energy efficiency standards under review, recognising that existing measures to increase energy efficiency of new buildings should be allowed time to become established.'

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