Communities and Local Government CommitteeFurther written evidence from BRE Global

Introduction

1. BRE’s original submission to the Committee was made on 19 August 2011.

2. On 26 August 2011 CLG published “Cost of Building to the Code for Sustainable Homes – Updated cost review”. The report was prepared for CLG by Element Energy and Davis Langdon.

3. A press release accompanied the publication of the report.

4. This addendum highlights some points from the report that we consider relevant to the Committee’s consideration.

“Cost of Building to the Code for Sustainable Homes: Updated cost review”

5. The report shows that building homes to better standards is getting much cheaper. In the last three years the average extra costs of building to level 3 of the Code for Sustainable Homes has fallen by almost three quarters

6. In publishing the report, the Communities Minister said: “Building greener homes is vital if we are to meet our nation’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change - so today’s report is good news for the entire country. The progress that has been made does not only benefit developers building Code-standard homes, it also provides valuable lessons ahead of the transition to building new homes to zero carbon standards from 2016:

“As a country we still have lot of work to do to reduce carbon emissions from new development, but what these figures show us is that as the construction industry continues to build more sustainable homes, there is further potential for the costs associated [with] building greener homes to continue falling”.

7. The report looks at the solutions that home builders typically adopt to achieve credits under the Code and the costs associated with these. It finds that in many areas builders are now able to achieve credits at no additional cost (section 5.1, pp 44-46).

8. This suggests that the Code is helping to drive change in the supply chain, and thus reduce costs (particularly in relation to renewable technologies). As we note in our main evidence, this is important not just for local environmental and economic reasons, but also in terms of the continuing development and prosperity of a key export sector of the UK’s economy. The Code for Sustainable Homes was derived from the BREEAM family of schemes. BREEAM is increasingly being adopted in other countries, with associated benefits for UK businesses involved in sustainable construction.

9. The report considers that those elements of construction which affect carbon “will decrease in real terms over time as the industry finds more efficient (ie low cost) ways to meet the low carbon challenge” (section 7.1, p 69).

10. It notes that, while much progress has already been made, there will be further learning required in order for housebuilders to build to Code level 6. To date, building to level 6 has not been common (section 7.2, p 72).

11. This suggests that the more widespread adoption of the Code through the planning system has an important role to play in enabling the dissemination of the learning required.

12. One of the key characteristics of BREEAM and the Code is that they provide a national framework for the setting and evaluation of sustainability standards. This helps to provide consistency for the construction industry and avoid confusion, while allowing local planning authorities discretion in how to apply such standards in their areas.

13. The report notes that the Code is increasingly being adopted by local authorities as a planning condition for new development (section 2.1, p 18). The incorporation within local plans of policies which promote the Code and BREEAM can be a powerful way of encouraging further improvement, and of supporting the Government in its aims of addressing its carbon targets and encouraging the prosperity of the sustainable construction industry.

14. The Code is owned and promoted by the Government, aligns closely with other Government policies and objectives, and is increasingly being embraced by local authorities through their planning function. In these circumstances, we consider that it would make sense for the NPPF to provide explicit endorsement for the use of the Code (and methodologies such as BREEAM from which the Code was derived) within the planning system.

September 2011

Prepared 20th December 2011