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HOUSING SPECIAL CODE FOR HOMES


Key driver of eco-housing or bringer of green bling? The Code for Sustainable Homes has many supporters and detractors. But, as Andy Pearson explains, it is facing an uncertain future


W


hen it was launched in December 2006, the government declared that the Code for Sustainable Homes


would drive a step-change in sustainable home-building practice. This comprehensive new method of assessing a home’s green credentials was intended to become the single national standard for sustainable homes. As such, it was intended to be the reference for designers, builders and, more importantly, home buyers to help them select the most sustainable residence. Much has happened in the four years since


its publication. The majority of home owners are still unaware of the Code’s existence. Rather than becoming the cornerstone of sustainable home design, many designers and builders are now highly critical of the document, claiming its application has resulted in unnecessarily expensive homes with questionable sustainable credentials. However, for others, despite its faults, the


Code has become a fundamental tool in the provision of eco-friendly new homes. So how valuable is the Code in the promotion of sustainable housing? The Code was developed to support the government’s target for all new homes to


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be zero carbon from 2016. As such, its six levels have been aligned with step changes to Part L of the Building Regulations – the section that deals with the conservation of fuel and power. While compliance with the Code is


not mandatory, the carbon emissions requirements of each Code level effectively become mandatory through their inclusion in Part L. Aside from carbon emissions, the criteria for Code compliance are more onerous and include a much broader sustainability agenda than is required under current building regulations. Michael Birnie, sustainability team leader


at ECD architects, backs the Code and says he believes it has brought significant benefits: ‘It has raised awareness of a wide range of issues that house builders would not have otherwise considered, including reductions in waste, water and improvements in user comfort.’ He says the cost of Code compliance to developers, particularly for less-rigorous Code levels, is manageable: ‘As with anything new, there were additional costs at the outset, but the Code impacts everyone and so has helped to develop a supply chain to bring down costs.’


June 2011 CIBSE Journal 33


RAISING BAR?


THE


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