Government announces result of Housing Standards Review - what does it mean for you
Published by Andrew Eagles for Sustainable Homes in Central Government and also in Communities, Environment, Housing, Local Government
Housing Standards Review announced
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced last week its response to the Housing Standards Review (HSR). The response continues the previously outlined objective to wind down the Code for Sustainable Homes (code) and consider a framework for space standards.
The CSH produced a step change in sustainable construction. DCLG have decided that they will incorporate two elements of the code, energy and water, into building regulations. It will be up to building control officers and approved bodies to ensure that the regulations are being adhered to.
Much of the detail is still unclear. There will be a minimum water standard of 125 litres per person per day, which is new for building regulations, but the additional optional standard of 110 litres per person per day will only be possible where in areas of water stress. Government though is “Still considering the best way to define areas of water stress to ensure this works in practice.”
It is important to note that although energy and water are being transferred to building regulations the majority of the Code is being dropped.
Here are two areas which raise serious risks.
Materials – responsible sourcing
Standards for materials have generated significant environmental wins in the past. Sustainably sourced timber (such as Forest Stewardship Council timber) was required through previous standards. Sustainably sourced timber is now the norm, protecting millions of acres of rainforest around the world.
The consultation suggests that existing voluntary industry standards cover these areas and that regulation is therefore unnecessary. This is a misunderstanding. The standards mentioned in the consultation, British Standards, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Council of Europe (CE) , do not cover the issues of embodied energy and environmental impacts. They are also voluntary.
Not including a materials section, as Government plan to do, means hundreds of thousands of homes will be built without knowing if the base materials for steel, concrete and others were extracted and manufactured with human exploitation. The pollution caused in the manufacture of materials will also be ignored.
The proposals to eliminate requirements for provision of cycle storage sit awkwardly with the Government’s clear commitment to encouraging more cycling. In responding to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group report Get Britain Cycling (2013), Transport Minister Norman Baker said:
“The coalition government takes cycling very seriously and we are committed to leading the country in getting more people cycling, more safely, more often”
The NPPF does not require or significant encourage home cycle storage. If Building Regulations do not require it storage will not be a part of future homes. Storage is one of the practical barriers to further growth in cycling
There is still an opportunity for Government to rectify these issues.They could this year develop incentives or guidance on sustainable materials and cycling either through planning or building regulations.
Security, space and accessibility
On security, the government is considering whether to apply a single minimum security standard either nationally through Building Regulations or on a local basis.
On accessibility, an optional more challenging standard will be incorporated into building regulations. This higher tier can be applied locally but would need to be justified in local plan policies and pass viability testing.
A national space standard will be developed outside of Building Regulations. This will be an optional standard which local authorities must prove the need for.
The government intends to make these changes this year. For a full summary of the Government's response please click here