Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Further supplementary memorandum from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister


1.  Membership and remit of the group or groups set up to determine the Government's response to the recommendations of the Barker Review; when are they due to report?

  As indicated in my recent note to the Chairman, oversight of the various workstreams being taken forward in response to the Barker Review of Housing Supply is undertaken by a Steering Group comprising officials from this Office, the Treasury, No 10 and the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit.

  Individual workstreams are taken forward by relevant officials in this Office and the Treasury, with regular updates provided to the steering group. The Interdepartmental Working Group on Sustainable Communities, chaired by ODPM, meets regularly. A technical group has also been established at official level to address issues related to the Government's response to the Barker Report. Given the large number of recommendations in the Barker report, and the differing timescales within which they need to be addressed, the Government does not propose to publish a single response. As proposals are developed to address specific recommendations, they will be subject to consultation in the normal way. The overall aim is to involve key stakeholders closely throughout and to ensure that there is plenty of opportunity for different views to be heard. This will normally be through formal consultation exercises, supplemented by less formal involvement of key stakeholders in, for example, discussions, workshops and seminars on particular topics.

  Combining the various streams of work, the forward programme for the next 12 to 18 months can be summarised as follows;


July to September 2004
—Announcement of Spending Review decisions

—Publication of consultation paper on integrated regional arrangements for housing and planning strategies and for independent advice

—Research commissioned to develop a methodology for defining a national market affordability goal and indicative regional targets

—Publication of revised PSA5 Technical Note, including proposed indicators of market affordability

October to December 2004—Revised draft circular on planning obligations (s106 agreements) published.

—Defra and ODPM are currently considering the terms of reference for a joint research project into the implications of additional housing supply for sustainable communities.

January to April 2005—New arrangements for Regional Housing Boards/Regional Planning Bodies and for independent advice announced

—Consultation on new draft PPG3, responding to Barker recommendations

May 2005 to December 2005—Existing Regional Housing Boards present regional housing strategies to Ministers, then begin to move to new regional arrangements

—Government sets up new arrangements for offering independent advice on housing numbers

—Reports of research into methodology for affordability goal published

—Consultation on draft national affordability goal and indicative regional targets

—Government publishes national market affordability goal and indicative regional targets.

—Government reaches conclusion on proposal for Planning-gain Supplement (with associated changes to s106)

2.  Why were no representatives of the Buildings Research Establishment or the House Builders Federation invited onto the Task Group by the Secretary of State?

  The Sustainable Buildings Task Group was established by the Secretaries of State for ODPM, DTI and Defra following the Better Building Summit in October 2003. Rather than a research based or technical working group, its purpose was to bring in fresh ideas and thinking, in particular from parties which have a crucial role in driving forward the concept of sustainable buildings, but which are not seen by some as central to the construction industry.

  With a potentially wide agenda, there was also a risk that this Group could get too broad and consequently lose focus. It was therefore felt to be important that the Task Group itself should be of a compact size to allow for detailed debate. This however meant that not all who expressed an interest could be included in the main group. It was agreed between the Departments that around 14 people should be identified who were able to bring expertise on the following priority interests:

  Volume House Builder


  Housing Corporation

  Building Services

  Building Fabric


  Trade Union





  Construction Industry

  Local Authority

  Voluntary Sector (Environmental)


  Although HBF were not represented directly we ensured that the House Building Industry were represented. BRE were actively involved at several stages throughout this process, and made some excellent contributions. We are now in discussion with the HBF and BRE about how best to build industry involvement in the following stages of this work.

3.  What work is being carried out to take forward the recommendations of the Sustainable Buildings Task Group?

  Government set out, in its formal response to the Sustainable Buildings Task Group report (July 2004), details of how it proposed to take a number of the recommendations forward. We are already taking action on a number of these, for instance:

    —  We are currently working to set up a project group to develop a Code for Sustainable Buildings. We have also committed resources to establish demonstrations of the Code across the Thames Gateway and in other locations. This would be a significant step towards setting a level playing field for industry in ensuring improved environmental performance in building projects.

    —  As part of a wider review of planning and building regulations, some of which is already underway, we will be considering the Task Group's recommendations and in some cases have been able to commit to taking them forward more precisely.

  There were also a number of recommendations for which further economic analysis and Regulatory Impact Assessments have to be undertaken before we are able to commit to anything. These will be completed at the earliest opportunity.

4.  What is the timetable the Government is working to when it comes to including the range of recommendations of the Task Group into the Building Regulations?

  Timetables for the review of various parts of the building regulations are staggered and as such it is not possible to say definitively when all of the Task Group's recommendations which apply to Building Regulations could be implemented. There are also various prior stages which must be completed, eg research, consultation, amendments, Regulatory Impact Assessments.

  In relation to the following recommendations made by the Sustainable Buildings Task Group which relate to Building Regulations the estimated time frames are:

    —  Taking forward the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill—The Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill has now passed through all its stages and awaits Royal assent which is expected in September. The provisions, which are almost all enabling ones, will then be available for use.

    —  Specifying in building regulations at least 10% of re-used, reclaimed & recycled materials in building projects—We expect to consult on proposals during 2005. We would need to carry out research on feasibility and also a Regulatory Impact Assessment. If we were to take such proposals forward standards and assessment procedures would be needed to rate the suitability of materials. Given this research need it is unlikely that regulations for re-used materials would come into effect until 2006-07. Powers under the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill will be available to deal with the re-use and recycling of building materials even where the re-used or recycled products are to be used elsewhere than in building projects.

    —  The Government should enshrine in regulation by 2005 a 25% saving on average per capita water consumption—Proposals will be developed in detail by the end of 2005. We are not yet able to say when might come into force. Implementation takes 9 to 18 months after consultation depending on the complexity of the issues involved. Any measures that involve innovative products may require an extended implementation period in order to allow manufacturers enough time to bring products to market.

    —  The Government should enshrine in regulation by 2005 a 25% energy efficiency improvement under Part L—We are currently working on this and proposals that would raise the performance standards for new buildings by around 25% were published for consultation on 21 July 2004. If all goes well we propose to bring the proposed changes into effect, taking account of consultees' views, by the end of 2005. This is in line with the commitment in the Energy White Paper

    —  The Government should enshrine in regulation by 2005 provision of space for the separate collection of recyclable materials in multi-occupancy buildings—DEFRA are currently consulting on the Household Waste Recycling Act 2003. Any changes needed are likely to take two to three years. The Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill contains a provision to allow building regulations to deal with space for recyclable materials; again this would take a minimum of two years to go through the full consultation processes, Building Regulations Advisory Committee and a Regulatory Impact Assessment.

    —  There should be tighter minimum standards for the use of water fittings and appliances—Proposals will be developed in detail by the end of 2005. We are not yet able to say when might come into force. However, the implementation period will have to accommodate lead times for manufacturers to change their products

    —  Building Regulations should require modern standards of flood resistance and resilience for all construction within areas of flood risk—Following the normal round of research, consultation, amendment etc., this could take three to four years.

  The enforcement of building regulations should be reviewed

  In line with the commitment in the Energy White Paper we are already in the process of reviewing the enforcement of the energy efficiency provisions. As part of this we are investigating how the expansion of the self certification scheme initiatives giving more responsibility to appropriately qualified building and building services contractors could enforcement. Ministers have also asked for a more general review of the enforcement procedures applying to all aspects of the Building Regulations.

  Two provisions in the Sustainable and Secure Building Act, which will receive Royal Assent in September 2004, will also help encourage greater compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations:

    (i)  Regulations may be made to require the appointment of a person on a site to be responsible for ensuring that the work of all contractors on the site complies with the Building Regulations as it goes along; and/or

    (ii)  Regulations may be made to require the person carrying out the work to give to the building control body at the end of the work a certificate stating that the work fully complies with the Building Regulations.

  In both cases there is sufficient flexibility in the provisions to allow them to be differentially targeted. For example, for particular sizes of work or for particular parts of the building regulations.

    —  Government should consider further amending Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations, extending their scope to cover a wider range of sustainability issues when refurbishing the existing building stock. The Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill currently before Parliament will enable the full range of sustainability issues to be addressed in Building Regulations. The Bill has now passed through all its stages and awaits Royal Assent which is expected in September. When the Bill becomes law we will be developing a programme of appropriate regulations. It is not yet possible to set a timetable for this.

5.  What work is being done in the Department or by other bodies to monitor how effectively Building Regulations are being complied with, particularly Part L of the regulations? Does the Department have any figures on compliance?

  Enforcement is the responsibility of local authorities and we do not monitor how effectively the Regulations are being complied with.

  This was an issue raised in the Energy White Paper (para 3.20) and we are committed to work with Local Authorities to improve enforcement.

  It was also raised by the Sustainable Buildings Task Group:

    "(3.14) The Government and Local Authorities should review the enforcement of the Building Regulations to ensure the regulators have the resource and training to conduct reliable post-completion checks on a proportion of all new and refurbished buildings."

  Our response to that was:

    "Government agrees that there are certain issues surrounding the enforcement of Building Regulations that could be considered further in order to strengthen and ensure correct implementation of the Regulations. The Energy White Paper makes it clear that Building Regulations play an important role in delivering improvements in energy efficiency. The consultation currently underway on aspects of Building Regulations includes consideration of enforcement issues."

6.  Levels of Government funding over the last 10 years for research into construction methods by Government

  Because of Machinery of Government changes and changes to the definitions of the terms used, a full and detailed answer to this question could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. However every effort has been made to provide as much information as is currently available.

  Estimates of UK expenditure into research into the built environment shows a range between £50-70 million per annum over the last 10 years. The most recent mapping exercise into funding for research into the built environment, carried out in 2004 by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and New Construction Research and Innovation Strategy Panel (nCRISP), indicates that current UK expenditure is estimated at approximately £53 million pa, based upon the CABE/nCRISP definition of built environment.

  This includes both "hard" built environment research (construction, building) and "soft" built environment research (design, social/user). The mapping covers key funders in the sector (including Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), ODPM, DTI, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), DCMS, and Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

  Of this total spend, the approximate split between `hard' built environment research (the construction end) and "soft" built environment research (the design end) is 65/35. Within this EPSRC have awarded around £2 5million pa in construction research grants with a similar sum being invested in research programmes directly relevant to construction (including Modern Methods of Construction) such as Innovative Manufacturing. Around £15-18 million funding pa has been from the DTI (formerly DETR) Construction Research Programme, chiefly through the Partners in Innovation scheme and the post privatisation research framework agreement with the Building Research Establishment. Both schemes closed to new applications in 2002. ODPM funding accounts for approximately £16 million, covering research on "hard" issues such as building regulation and "soft" issues, such as design and social impacts.

  The detailed content of the programme is determined by research strategies that are reviewed annually with the assistance of stakeholders on the Building Regulations Research Advisory Group. This is an invited body which is made up of representatives from all parts of the industry including design, research, building control, builders and suppliers plus the National House Building Council, the Housing Corporation and other departments such as Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

  Key drivers include: the need to fill gaps in the evidence needed to justify (mainly technical) policy change on building regulation, and for broader policy objectives (such as the Energy and Fire White Papers); and the need to keep pace with market, EU and global developments etc.


What proportion of this (government funding into research in construction methods) has been allocated to research into sustainable construction methods and materials?

  Because of the varying definitions of sustainable construction, a full and detailed answer to this question could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. However all projects entering the DTI research portfolio have had to show a direct impact on either the social, environmental or economic drivers of sustainable construction. It is estimated that around a quarter of the DTI research spend (£4-5 million pa) has been directed towards research projects with Sustainable methods or materials as their primary driver.

  Within ODPM, the most pertinent programme is the research and technical support funded through our Buildings Division. This underpins the development of building regulations by ensuring they are formulated on a sound scientific and evidential basis. Improving buildings regulations has a consequent positive impact on sustainability. This research is commissioned under five framework contracts, and has a 2004-05 budget in the order of £5 million.

What level of this has been allocated to looking at the environmental implications and whole life costs of increasing the use of Modern Methods of Construction?

  This is largely depends on how Modern Methods of Construction are defined. The DTI has provided around £1.5 million funding over the last five years directly examining the development and impacts of off-site production, prefabrication and manufactured building elements, chiefly through LINK research projects dual funded with EPSRCs Meeting Clients needs through standardisation programme. Over a similar period £3.7 million has spent examining whole life issues and costs in construction.

To what bodies has funding being allocated?

  A considerable proportion of the DTI and ODPM research spend has been allocated to the Building Research Establishment under the terms of their post privatisation research framework. The construction research associations such as the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA), Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA) and Building Services Research & Information Association (BSRIA) have also led a number of projects, as have Universities such as Loughborough, Reading and Salford. Private sector companies have also been successful in winning contracts, for example Faber Maunsell, Balfour Beatty, Taylor Woodrow and Whitbread.

7.  How is the ODPM encouraging the use of higher building and design standards in the Thames Gateway and other areas?

  All new housing developments in the Thames Gateway and other Growth Areas will be expected to comply with Planning Policy Guidance Note 1 on "General Policy and Principles". This requires that "good design should be the aim of all those involved in the development process and should be encouraged everywhere".

  To encourage the use of higher building and design standards in the Growth Areas, projects that the ODPM is funding in the Thames Gateway have been selected against thematic objectives. These include "implementing a consistent policy of quality design" and "ensuring that the resource demands of new development are minimised". In particular, projects should aim to secure significant advances in minimising the additional demand generated for water, energy and waste disposal. All of the Thames Gateway projects must also undertake a flood risk assessment and ensure that the design is compatible with planning guidance on flood risk.

  Funding criteria also state that projects in the other growth areas are "expected to demonstrate best practice in terms of conception and design." The promotion of higher building and design standards is also a key role for local delivery vehicles. ODPM is funding delivery vehicles in key growth locations to ensure that the capacity is in place to achieve this.

  ODPM has increased funding for CABE, who launched the Growth Areas Housing Quality Forum in March 2004 to disseminate best practice on design within the Growth Areas. Major developments in the Thames Gateway, such as the Greenwich Millennium village, have already used urban design codes to provide certainty to developers and the community as to what constitutes acceptable design quality. We are in the process of identifying other potential sites in the Gateway to pilot further urban coding schemes.

Is it promoting the use of Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and EcoHomes for all developments?

  The Housing Corporation promotes EcoHomes for its new social housing developments. It is recommending that schemes achieve a EcoHomes rating of "very good" from April 2005 with the "good" rating as an essential condition of grant.

  A number of developments within the Gateway provide good demonstrations of the use of BREEAM and EcoHomes standards. For example, the Greenwich Millennium Community has an "excellent" rating under the EcoHomes system and has targets of an 80% reduction in primary energy consumption, 30% reduction in water consumption and 50% reduction in construction waste. Also, the Gallions Ecopark in Thamesmead comprises 39 dwellings made of timber frames with argon double glazing, solar water heating, low flush toilets, spray taps, energy efficient lighting and recycling facilities. This development also received an "excellent" rating under EcoHomes. ODPM is promoting these as examples of good practice for all development. The delivery vehicles that are being established in the Growth Areas offer an excellent opportunity to encourage sustainable building design at the local level.

  The Government's response to the Sustainable Buildings Task Group also expressed a commitment to developing a code to establish higher standards for energy and water efficiency, waste and use of materials. This will be tested in demonstration schemes in the Thames Gateway before being rolled-out nationally. The Code will be a significant step towards setting a level playing field for industry and, importantly, part of the demonstration process will be to carry out an economic assessment of the adopted standard.

8.  How are the predicted emissions of CO2 from the construction and lifetime use of the proposed new housing in the Sustainable Communities plan being incorporated in the Government's work on meeting target for the 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050?

  One of the four goals of the Government's Energy White Paper published in February 2003 is to cut the UK's CO2 emissions by some 60% by 2050.

  Improvements in building standards are expected to play a significant part in achieving this, so that by 2010 more than half the carbon emissions reductions in the existing Climate Change programme—around 10 MtC per annum—could come from energy efficiency improvements in households and buildings for industry, commerce and the public sector.

  Further ahead, it is believed that energy efficiency can contribute around half of the additional 15-25 MtC savings likely to be needed by 2020.

  In order to raise building standards, the Energy White Paper announced that we would carry out a review of the energy efficiency provisions in Part L of the Building Regulations, with the aim of bringing the next major revision into effect in 2005.

  We also said we would raise energy efficiency standards over the next decade learning lessons from the standards set in comparable European countries; raise boiler standards to Class A/B levels—the levels achieved by condensing types—by 1 April 2005; and seek ways of improving the correlation between design intent and as-built performance.

  The Part L revision work will, for instance, examine what improvements can be made to the winter and summer performance standards for building fabric and heating, cooling and lighting systems, whilst ensuring the Regulations remain technically sound, proportionate, cost-effective and sufficiently flexible for designers.

  The Energy White Paper also announced that ODPM would take the lead in implementing the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive because Part L of the Building Regulations would be used to implement many of the requirements.

  The Directive aims to promote the introduction of cost-effective measures to improve the energy performance of both new and existing buildings, although recognising that the largest potential for energy savings lies with the existing building stock.

  Requirements of the Directive include setting standards for the energy performance of new and existing buildings; certification of energy performance so that energy performance can be readily compared when buildings are constructed, sold or rented out; greater use of low and zero carbon energy sources; and regular inspection of boiler and air conditioning systems. The deadline for implementing the requirements is 4 January 2006.

  The review of Part L announced in the Energy White Paper is now well under way—proposals for revising Part L were presented to the Building Regulations Advisory Committee on 5 May and we published the consultation package this summer.

  The intention is to publish new Part L regulations and Approved Documents in July 2005 to come into effect by the end of 2005.

Do you acknowledge that the housing built under the Sustainable Communities Plan together to any further housing proposed as a result of the Barker Review will make a significant contribution to emission by 2050?

  In principle, every additional house that is built contributes marginally to total emissions. The 200,000 additional homes we are currently aiming to secure in the south east will therefore have an effect, though it will be small by comparison with the 26 million homes which already exist in Great Britain.

  The CO2 emissions from the new housing will depend upon the environmental standards used by the builders at the time of building. As part of the Sustainable Communities Plan, the ODPM is encouraging housebuilders to use higher building and design standards which will lead to a cut in CO2 emissions.

  However, the full picture is more complex and less definite. More homes need to be built to cater not for an increase in population but to accommodate long term demographic trends; for instance, for migration between areas, for households to become smaller and for people to live longer.

  The relationship between demographic trends, housing quality and emissions (and other environmental impacts) is complex. To the extent that with people moving out of older buildings into newer homes with better environmental standards, there will be a net benefit. This is not of course the whole story, but it shows the dangers of over-simplification. Not all the effects are additional.

How is the ODPM encouraging the use of higher building and design standards in the Thames Gateway and other areas? Is it promoting the use of BREEAM and EcoHomes for all developments?

  The Government is committed to increasing the standard to which all publicly funded housing is built, to ensure new housing is more sustainable:

    —  As of April 2003, all new built homes funded by the Housing Corporation are required to achieve a BRE EcoHomes rating of "Pass" as a minimum essential condition of receiving grant support, and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) are encouraged to aim for the higher "Good" rating.

    —  The Housing Corporation also encourages RSLs to adopt higher standards by enhancing the cost criteria by 1-2% where Ecohomes "Good" certification is obtained in conjunction with "Secured by Design" certification.

    —  The Housing Corporation intends to increase the minimum requirement to a "Good" rating from April 2005, with housing associations encouraged to aim for the higher "Very Good" rating from the same date.

    —  The Housing Corporation is also promoting the adoption of sustainable development action plans by housing associations so that they achieve higher environmental performance standards.

    —  The Housing Corporation published its sustainable development strategy in April 2003. It is integrating sustainability principles into its regulatory framework and all its investment decisions, including as a specific factor in deciding which housing association developments to fund.

    —  The Corporation will encourage best practice through the production of guidance, practical tools to assess environmental impacts and will develop strategies to address them with dissemination through workshops and seminars.

  We are reducing the environmental impact of new housing by encouraging sustainable construction methods and improving the design of buildings. Through the Millennium Communities programme, English Partnerships are working closely with organisations within the housebuilding industry to demonstrate what can be achieved within new mixed-developments. Each site will have ecological and environmental strategies and aim to incorporate good public transport links, innovation in building technology, energy efficiency.

  We have also given the green light to the Sustainable Buildings Code in our response to the Sustainable Buildings Task Group report. The new code will establish higher standards for energy and water efficiency, as well as waste and use of materials. We will set up demonstrations in the Thames Gateway, and elsewhere in the growth areas to show the industry what can be achieved. We will take action on the national roll-out of the Code by early 2006.

September 2004

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