Scrapping the Code for Sustainable Homes risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater

Matt Fulford

Ten per cent of the male population are red and green colour blind (me included) but it seems that this is also afflicting the Department for Communities and Local Government at the moment. In their proposals to cut red tape in their recently published ‘Housing Standards Review’ as they have not been able to differentiate between red (tape) and green (sustainable development).

The current consultation suggests relying solely on Part L of the building regulations and scrapping requirements for the Code for Sustainable Homes (claiming that is has ‘done its job’) and restricting the use of the Merton Rule within the planning system.

Let us give some credit to DCLG as there is sense in providing better co-ordination between these three requirements - as I have certainly advised on schemes where they were in danger of competing against one another for very little additional benefit - but the Code is not all about energy that is regulated by Part L, it is about far more and by scraping it all together there is a very real danger that the government will throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Only one of the nine categories is about energy and carbon (the others being water, materials, surface water run-off, waste, pollution, health and wellbeing, management and ecology). By using the narrow justification that one or two of the energy credits mirror that of the increased standards of Part L, is the government really saying that it does not think the flooding from surface water run-off is important anymore?

There has been a tendency for sustainability codes to compete against one another (LEED vs BREEAM being the best example) and perhaps we are now at a stage where one approach trying to prove itself to be better than another is not the best way to push progress. Instead, this could be the opportunity for the Code to rejoice that it has helped pushed forward progress in terms of regulated energy emissions and renewable energy and re-focus on raising the standards in other areas of sustainability and non-regulated emissions, which otherwise fall through some wide gaps.

Matt Fulford is the director of Inspired Efficiency