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News in Brief ‘Core’ design standards

Lessons needed on new playground design

School playing areas are lagging behind buildings when it comes to good design, according to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). Despite the improved standards for new and proposed school buildings, CABE believes play areas are often uninspiring and fail to recognise the varying needs and ages of different pupils. School grounds are one of the 10 criteria used by CABE to assess design quality in the Building Schools for the Future


Scottish hopes for housing ‘kick-start’ gain momentum

The Scottish government and the Scottish Futures Trust are working closely with a number of local authorities to develop proposals for a National Housing Trust (NHT). The scheme is expected to keep people in jobs by allowing housebuilders to kick- start construction on stalled sites that would otherwise remain mothballed. About 1,000 homes are likely to be made available through the NHT, although the final number of homes provided will depend on the results of an open procurement process.

Passivhaus bodies merge

The Passivhaus Buildings Trust and the Passivhaus Buildings Association have been merged to form the Passivhaus Trust, which is owned by sustainable building association, the AECB. The trust aims to create a centre of excellence for low energy and low carbon buildings.

Community heating hots up

Coventry, Nottingham and Leeds are to share an additional £4.8m in funding from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for decentralised community heating schemes. Originally, £21m was announced for 13 projects to provide heat and power to homes, shops and businesses through low-carbon community heating networks. The money came from the HCA’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Fund.

for affordable homes


Plans for minimum design standards for affordable

homes have been set out by a regeneration agency for England. The Homes and Communities

Agency (HCA) has launched a consultation into its potential future design and sustainability ‘core’ housing standards. The consultation, which closes

on 17 June, seeks to determine exactly what good design means in practical terms and how a simple, clear and transparent set of standards can achieve this. It is hoped the results will

eventually provide the market with clarity and consistency in constructing new homes. According to the consultation

document, lower running costs are part of the HCA’s vision for better designed homes, but residents should not become burdened by design solutions that are too expensive to maintain, too sophisticated to run or which are not properly tried and tested. The document also sets out the

HCA’s intention to make level four of the Code for Sustainable Homes part of its new core standards. At present, housing developments work to a minimum standard of code level 3. The HCA is also seeking views on whether to retain the current

Future homes that have HCA involvement could have to apply stricter core standards.

minimum space standards, and has created a ‘housing quality calculator’ for consultants, developers and local authorities to find out how proposed new developments compare with the HCA’s core standards. If adopted, the HCA proposes

that its core standards will apply to new build, general needs, non- specialised housing where the HCA

is involved via a grant scheme, providing free or discounted land, or funding major infrastructure investment as part of a regeneration project. Subject to the outcomes of the consultation and ministerial approvals, the HCA plans to publish the final standards in autumn 2010, with the standards potentially in use from April 2011.

BDP does an ‘ACE’ job

This year’s winners of the ACE (Association for Consultancy and Engineering) Engineering Excellence Awards have been announced. The awards showcase consultancy and engineering firms that demonstrate a high degree of achievement, value and engineering excellence. Multidisciplinary consultancy BDP won the

building structures (medium

firm) category for its own Manchester Studio (pictured).


CIBSE Journal May 2010

Martine Hamilton Knight

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