A report by the Sustainable Buildings Task Group, published last month, calls for the Building Regulations to include tough recycling targets and for the introduction of a sustainable buildings code.
The report says specifiers should ensure at least 10% of a building's materials are recycled, reused or reclaimed.
It says this recycling target should be incorporated into the Building Regulations, as should targets to improve energy efficiency 25% and to cut average water consumption 25%.
The task group also calls for a sustainable buildings code, which if introduced could replace current environmental assessment tools used by government agencies.
The code would affect housing in sustainable communities and all government procured buildings. It would cover four sustainability areas: energy efficiency, waste, water and building materials.
The report says that environmental standards in the code should be higher than those laid out in Building Regulations, and there should be further bands of higher performance. The levels of performance bands would echo the EcoHomes assessment levels of "pass", "good", "very good" and "excellent", which indicate environmental performance in new homes.
The task group recommends that the code should insist on the equivalent of an EcoHomes "very good" standard by 2005 for public sector buildings.
Construction research group BRE says the additional cost of achieving the "very good" standard is between £2000 and £3000 per property.
However, the task group claims that energy efficiency measures can be incorporated in an affordable way. It says that a cost analysis by Leeds Metropolitan University of a sustainable housing project in Altrincham, Cheshire, proves that energy efficiency measures can be introduced cost-effectively by volume housebuilders.
The report also recommends setting up an environmental labelling system for construction materials and products. The group says the scheme would have to be voluntary and be European or international in scope to gain manufacturers' support.
The group also calls for the Building Regulations to require modern standards of flood resistance in all areas of flood risk, and says that insurance companies should insist that flood repairs be made using flood resilient products.
The report was jointly commissioned by the Office of Deputy Prime Minister, Department of Trade and Industry and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.
Housebuilders to pay for acoustic robust details
Housebuilders will have to pay a fee for every house that uses a robust standard detail to comply with acoustic regulations.
Housebuilders that use tested and approved robust details for separating floors and walls will not have to carry out acoustic tests to prove their new homes comply with the tough sound-proofing standards in Part E.
The fees will be charged by Robust Details Ltd (RDL), a not-for-profit company that is overseeing the development, maintenance and monitoring of acoustic robust standard details.
To use a Part E robust detail approved by RDL, builders must obtain permission from RDL and pay a fee for each home where robust details will be used.
The 14 robust details are contained in a handbook, which is available from RDL for £35-50 depending on how many copies are ordered.
On completion of each separating wall and floor, the builder is required to complete a compliance certificate and pass it to its building control body. Building control will only approve the home once it has received the certificate.
As well as a certificate, the builder will receive a checklist for each robust detail selected.
Manufacturers and trade associations can submit a construction detail for inclusion in the handbook. They will have to be tested on housing developments and approved by RDL before they can be included in the handbook.
All the details are generic and not manufacturer specific. At the moment there are six masonry, two concrete, three timber frame, two steel and one steel-concrete composite robust details in the handbook.
Housebuilders will have to show compliance with Part E of the building regulations from 1 July.
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