UK Government

Communities and Local Government (National): Healey: overhauling the green rating standard for new homes

Press Release   •   Dec 17, 2009 11:07 GMT

Housing and Planning Minister John Healey has today launched proposals for a more consumer-friendly green rating for homes that will help green-proof properties and reduce future utility bills by up to nearly £1,500 a year in the most energy efficient homes.

The Code for Sustainable Homes was introduced in April 2007 as a standard to improve the overall sustainability of new homes. "The Code" scores against a star rating system, using one to six stars depending on how the property performs against categories such as energy use, waste, materials and water.

Mr Healey has pledged to improve the Code so that it's easier for consumers, whether they are developers or individuals simply wanting to grade and track the sustainability of their properties.

The Code is rated from one to six, one being the entry level – above the level of the standard, mandatory Building Regulations – and six as highest, reflecting exemplar sustainable development. In the first two years, over 300,000 have been registered to build to Code standards, and nearly 2,000 homes have completed Code certificates.

The improved star rating system will also take into account the tougher new rules for energy efficiency in the building regulations, coming into force from 2010 and the longer term proposals for energy efficiency standards in zero carbon homes. The Code will reflect these mandatory requirements giving people the opportunity to build to tomorrow’s standards today and save more on bills.

John Healey, said:

"Our homes account for a quarter of UK carbon emissions, so it's clear they are a vital part of our efforts to tackle climate change.The talks in Copenhagen have underlined the need for us to act now, so we need to ensure that people who want to greenproof their homes get a helping hand, not red tape.

"The Code has proved its worth but now is the time to make it a more user-friendly standard for consumers. In the future, this will help drive uptake so people will save more money on bills and reduce the carbon footprint of new homes."

A consultation document will outline three areas for improvement:

  • aligning the Code with the latest developments in the zero carbon homes policy - to enable it to continue to reflect the future regulatory trajectory and provide practical experience for developers and inform the development of detailed regulatory proposals for 2013 and beyond.  This includes consulting on the new energy efficiency standard to be required of zero carbon homes;

  • streamlining the standard and processes - learning from experience to date, to ensure that the Code is focused on the issues of greatest significance and that we eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy; and

  • resolving problems that have arisen in use - seeking to find practical solutions to barriers that have arisen in the use of the Code so far, balancing sustainability policy aims with the practicalities of house building in the current economic climate.

The Code has a key role in helping people cut their carbon emissions and lead more sustainable lifestyles.The standards reflect the future goals for zero carbon homes and include measures for reducing energy consumption, minimising and recycling waste, reducing potable water demand, reducing the risk and impact of flooding, reducing carbon intensive travel by providing cycle storage as well as facilities for working at home. It encourages a reduction in embodied energy through the choice of building materials as well as the energy used during the construction.

The rating standards are assessed against nine categories:

  • Pollution
  • Heath and Wellbeing
  • Management
  • Ecology
  • Energy and CO2 Emissions
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Surface Water Run-off
  • Waste

So far, building to higher standards set out in the Code has taught developers a considerable amount about low and zero carbon homes, which in turn has helped develop proposals for the next regulatory step in 2010 on the way to zero carbon homes as well as the zero carbon definition for 2016. It is also saving developers money - for Code level 3, the most common level built, there has been reduction in additional building costs of around 6% since 2007 as builders gain experience and supply chains are established.

Last month, Mr Healey confirmed that tougher proposals for energy efficiency standards will mean that all new homes from 2016 will have all round better insulated walls, windows, ceilings and floors to avoid any loss of energy. The consultation seeks views on the standard and on the interim standards that will apply from 2013.

Notes to editors

1. The Code is a voluntary standard with flexibility for developers to determine the most cost-effective mix of issues to cover to achieve any particular level, subject to a limited number of mandatory requirements.  However, it is also used as a condition of funding (at Code level 3) for the Homes and Communities Agency National Affordable Housing Programme and by local authorities when they want to set sustainability-based planning conditions on housing developments in their area.

2. On 1 May 2008, CLG introduced a mandatory rating policy for all new homes.  This means that all new homes designed and built after that date need to give the homebuyer either a Code certificate (with between 0 to 6 stars) if the home was assessed against the Code or if it was not, a ‘nil rated certificate’ that clearly state it was built to current Building Regulations.

3. Practical experience of working with the Code is also informing the development of other aspects of sustainability policy (for example the development of surface water management proposals in the current Floods and Water Management Bill).

5. Average savings today at Code level 3 for energy and water is up to £400. In 2010, taking into account feed in tariffs, households built to Code level 6 could save between £950 for a flat and up to £1450 for a detached house in energy and water bills.

6. There are two cost elements to the Code; designing and building a Code home and employing a licensed Code assessor to undertake the design stage and post construction assessments.

7. The costs of assessment vary considerably depending on the number of homes in a site, when they are completed and on who is offering the service, whether it is a stand alone assessment, part of a wider package of services or ‘free of charge’ if provided by component manufacturers (e.g. insulation providers).

8. The Code is a mark of quality that can be used by home builders to differentiate their product to consumers who have a growing appetite for more sustainable products and services. Case studies of developers who have used the Code, include:

  • Case Study 1: The Old Apple Store, Stawell, Somerset – The Old Apple store is a Code Level 5 joint development by Pippin Properties Ltd and Eco Homes Ltd. The development comprises 5 units of private housing.  "We are setting our stall out at Code 5, which I think had a tangible   effect on drawing the buyers. Even if they initially didn't understand the rating, this benchmark set the development at a measurably high standard" – Eco Homes.   "We were interested in the low energy bills and buying a 'home' in which we could live for a long time" – Buyer who bought one the properties off plan.

  • Case Study 2: Norbury Court, Staffordshire – This is a Code Level 3 development by Staffordshire Housing Association in partnership with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and LHL Developments. It comprises seven three-bedroom houses and one three-bedroom dormer bungalow.  "As a council, we have nomination rights for social housing, and the waiting list is unfortunately a long one. These houses will provide high quality accommodation for nine families" Councillor Andrew Hart, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.

    "These homes are fantastic, especially with all the green features that have been built in. I can't wait to move the family in and make the place our own."- Occupant of one of the houses at Norbury Court.

  • Case Study 3: One Earth Homes, Upton Park, Northampton, Northamptonshire.  - The One Earth Homes are six houses located on the Upton Park development (large scale, multi-developer site), three miles outside of Northampton town centre.  These houses are the UK’s first certified, open-market, Code Level 6 homes.The Homes form part of the first phase of the Metropolitan Housing Partnership’s activities on the Upton Park development, during which 345 homes will be built. Plans for the whole development include c.1380 units, a primary school, a local centre with retail; offices; a public house; café and restaurant, a medical centre, and a nursery.

9. Mr Healey announced a proposed new energy efficiency standard for all new homes from 2016, following the advice of a specialist task group commissioned by the Minister in July and co-ordinated by the Zero Carbon Hub (see www.zerocarbonhub.org/building.aspx?page=2 for a copy of the task group’s report).  The task group recommended that the energy efficiency standard should be 46 kilowatt-hours per square metre per year (kWh/m2/year) for semi-detached and detached homes and 39 kWh/m2/year for all other homes. In line with the Minister’s announcement last month, the Code consultation document seeks views on these proposals, so as to check there are no unintended consequences, and also on the interim standard that should apply from 2013.

10. The task group has made a number of additional recommendations for further research and modelling to support the proposed energy standard. CLG will take these recommendations forward, in collaboration with the Zero Carbon Hub and other relevant research and industry bodies. One of the particular recommendations is that industry will need design guidance to support the standard. We will be working to take these ideas forward in conjunction with industry. More details on the standards and the work of the hub can be found here:www.zerocarbonhub.org

11. The energy efficiency standard means that new homes will be well insulated (walls, windows, ceiling, floor) and will not be draughty (ie air coming in from outside will come in because of deliberate ventilation rather than draughts from unintended gaps in walls, windows, etc.).

12. There are lots of different combinations of walls, windows, construction details etc that can meet the standard.  But, indicatively, think of an exterior masonry wall that has around 7 – 8 inches of glasswool insulation (approximately double that of a home built today) or 13 – 16 inches of mineral wool insulation in the attic (versus around 11 for a home built today).

13. This does not mean that new homes will need to be mechanically ventilated or that the windows need to be triple-glazed or cannot be opened for ventilation.

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