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Mendip Place in Essex incurred ‘considerable’ extra expense to achieve Level 6 of the Code, according to a designer on the housing project

Andrew Eagles, managing director


The Code measures the sustainability of a new home against nine categories of sustainable design, rating the ‘whole home’ as a complete package. It covers: energy and CO2 emissions; water usage; materials; fl ooding and fl ood prevention; waste; pollution; health and well-being; management and ecology. It applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In November 2010 the

government updated the Code to include changes to the Building Regulations and changes to SAP, the compliance software. Ant Wilson, a director at consultant AECOM, says further changes are likely in future. Recent and forthcoming changes to the Code

include: ● Minimum mandatory emissions standards for Code Levels 1, 2 and 3 were dropped in November, as these are met via compliance with the revised Building Regulations;

● Credits for specifying low-energy lighting were dropped from the Code because the incentive for this is covered by Part L. Instead, credits are now offered for energy display devices; and

● The minimum Fabric Energy Effi ciency Standards in Part L have been adopted by the Code.

of training and advisory consultancy, Sustainable Homes, says that additional Code requirements provide signifi cant benefi ts, which ensure a property will have better than minimum daylight and sound insulation requirements. ‘In the dash for low carbon, other

environmental issues can be forgotten,’ he says. And, like Birnie, he says the cost of compliance at Level 3 should not be an issue. ‘When it came out people said it was madness to achieve Code Level 3 because compliance would cost an extra £6,000 to £7,000 per house because the sector was not ready for it. Yet, within a year-and-a- half it was actually costing less than £3,000 and it was not as diffi cult to achieve as developers had fi rst thought.’ But Neil May, chief

‘Rather than increasing knowledge about

a building’s sustainability, it has led to less understanding because of the complexity of the process, the emphasis on green bling and a lack of monitoring and feedback,’ he says. Green bling, in May’s view, is more

likely to be present on Level 5 and Level 6 homes as expensive renewable technology. However, May says there is no need for Level 5 or Level 6 homes at present. ‘We need to focus on trying to walk before we try to fl y supersonically; we also need to look at issues of human behaviour and culture before we start trying to solve things with complex technology,’ he says. Eagles is in agreement

executive of materials and construction systems supplier Natural Building Technologies, is no fan of the Code: ‘The Code is not useful at all – it has led to a lot of poor buildings built with inappropriate technologies at high cost with high future maintenance costs and risks.’ May insists that some categories, such as

The Code has raised awareness of a wide range of issues that house builders would not have otherwise considered

with May on the complexity of compliance: ‘I think it’s bureaucratic and that needs addressing.’ However, the Code has been benefi cial in tackling carbon emissions, dealing with matters such as reducing fl ood risk, and issues like the provision of sound insulation and

ecology. ‘It provides a real benefi t over and above simply focusing on carbon,’ Eagles adds. On the subject of cost and Code Level 6,

energy, water, green materials and surface run-off, use tools ‘which are just wrong and so lead to perverse outcomes’. The complexity of the assessment process, claims May, results in companies spending more on box ticking than on the green measures themselves.

34 CIBSE Journal June 2011

Eagles says costs will come down over time. ‘When I was on the steering group that oversaw development of the codes, Level 6 was intended to be something to aim for in 2016 and beyond’. He estimates that Level 6 can add up to £30,000 to the cost of a house. ‘Yes it is expensive but nobody is saying CL6 is required right now,’ he explains. One architect who has been involved with

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