Abolishing the Code for Sustainable Homes as part of the government’s review of housing standards would be a retrograde step

Alan Shingler

Alan Shingler

The government’s review of housing standards and building regulations, the detail of which was published yesterday, raises the prospect that the Code for Sustainable Homes may be abolished.

While the Home Builders Federation reportedly supports such a move, favouring a review of regulation in order to stimulate growth, the truth is that land and finance for the first time buyer are preventing private housing development, not building legislation.

But abolishing the Code for Sustainable Homes would damage the promotion of sustainable design, rather than addressing the real barriers to growth in the residential construction market.

Revisions to the planning system were positively received and have helped to remove overlapping regulation but housing development is still subject to financial burden through CIL or 106 agreements, affordable housing contributions and so on. Compared to other parts of Europe the costs associated with energy efficiency in residential development in the UK are half that in other European states.

We risk throwing the baby out with the bath water in a belief that deregulation will help stimulate the housing market

What we actually need is transparency, conviction and a clear framework for the final piece of the jigsaw in ‘Allowable Solutions’ enabling the Code for Sustainable Homes to be delivered, while accommodating regional variations that consider finance availability and land value. The last thing the industry needs is more speculation of change.

As the government continues to dilute low carbon industry targets, the private sector continues to delay investment, waiting for clarity in forthcoming legislation. The Code for Sustainable Homes published in 2007 set an ambition which has been ‘refined’ and we are now entering a dangerous period, risking throwing the baby out with the bath water in a belief that deregulation will help stimulate the housing market.

In a time where we need accelerated action to mitigate climate change, and clarity in forthcoming building regulations and energy standards, I am concerned that we will take a retrograde step, returning to poor design, build standards and low energy efficiency, proving a short term solution to buildings that will remain for a generation.

Poorly designed buildings that do not do their part to mitigate climate change or consider climate change adaptation will only exacerbate the problem, adding fossil fuel onto a fire that is already out of control.

Alan Shingler is a partner at Sheppard Robson. He heads the practice’s Sustainability and Residential Groups and was responsible for the award-winning ‘Lighthouse’ - the UK’s first net zero-carbon house to meet Level 6 (the highest level) of the Code for Sustainable Homes.