The Code for Sustainable Homes
129. One way in which Government can make a direct
contribution to promoting the use of local energy is through its
housing stock. In December 2006, the Department for Communities
and Local Government launched its Code for Sustainable Homes.
This is designed to set a national standard to guide industry
in the design and construction of sustainable homes. It places
certain requirements on new build, covering nine design categories
including energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, waste, materials,
pollution and water conservation. Under the Code, new homes will
be given a 'star rating' to indicate their environmental impact.
The rating runs from one to six stars. The lowest is a standard
that has been set above the current Building Regulations requirements;
the highest reflects an exemplar development in sustainability
terms. For energy use, the highest star rating will be awarded
to homes which are carbon dioxide neutral.
130. The Code is intended as a successor to the Building
Research Establishment's EcoHomes rating scheme, which is currently
used to assess around 30,000 homes a year. At present, the Code
is voluntary for the private sector. Housing built with public
money, however, must achieve at least level three of the Code.
Under the new conditions, this requires homes to achieve carbon
dioxide emissions at least 25% lower than the Target Emissions
Rate set out in the 2006 Building Regulation Standards. This could
still be achieved through energy efficiency measures in the home.
But higher star ratings are likely to require some use of local
131. The Government intends the Code for Sustainable
Homes to act as an indicator of the future direction of Building
Regulations, which have themselves been gradually tightened in
recent years to require better standards of energy efficiency.
In addition, the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act
2006 amended the Buildings Act 1984 to allow the Government
to require local energy systems in all new build in the future,
should it choose to do so.
These developments should send a clear signal to the construction
and local energy industries of the Government's intentions, allowing
them time to prepare and increase capacity. Indeed, as costs fall
for local energy technologies, this should also be used as an
opportunity to tighten energy requirements under the Code.
132. Evidence we received was broadly supportive
of the Code, though there was some concern about the transition
from voluntary participation of the private sector to enforcement
under the Building Regulations. One way of helping the industry
to achieve this could be to establish a 'Builders' Obligation'
under which large-scale builders would be required to construct
a fixed percentage of their homes to meet Code standards each
the Micropower Council argues that the Department for Communities
and Local Government should set a timetable for incorporation
of the Code's standards into the Building Regulations in order
to further demonstrate the Government's intentions on future policy
for new homes.
133. The Code
for Sustainable Homes provides a welcome demonstration
of the Government's intentions for future Building Regulations.
Standards under the Code should promote greater energy efficiency
for all new homes built with public money. Further tightening
of the Code in the future should also provide a lever for greater
use of local energy installations in new build. We recommend that
if costs for local energy technologies fall significantly, relative
to energy efficiency measures, or relative to the cost of energy
from other sources, the Government should then establish a framework
for the incorporation of local energy into future Building Regulations,
and that any such framework must place more emphasis on the role
of local heat production than has been the case so far.