The government could water down its new code for sustainable buildings, a leading sustainability expert has claimed

David Strong, managing director of the energy division at construction research group BRE, said there were concerns the government would adopt standards that would turn the clock back 10 years in terms of sustainable construction.

He said: “It would be great for housebuilders as they would have a smokescreen to carry on building unsustainable homes.”

The ODPM is set to produce the first draft outline of the code at the Delivering Sustainable Communities Summit next week. The CSB will initially be aimed at new housing in the Thames Gateway and other growth areas. It will promote sustainability by setting standards for the efficient use of energy, water and materials.

Strong said that the CSB should be based on the BRE’s EcoHomes standard, which is used by English Partnership and the Housing Corporation to push sustainable construction in social housing projects.

Strong said that EcoHomes is being used by 40% of social developments and is rapidly penetrating the private sector. He said: “If the ODPM uses something different, momentum will be lost until they come up with a new standard in four to five years’ time.”

Strong said that housebuilders could build homes to Ecohomes “pass” and “good” standards if more intelligence was used in the design stage and working practices were improved during construction.

Jo Wheeler, sustainable policy officer at the World Wildlife Fund, said the WWF would push strongly for strict mandatory standards. “There’s little point in having a code if it’s less than EcoHomes’ “very good” standard. We would want to see that at base level.”

  • Prescott has announced three new housing market renewal pathfinders in the north of England – west Cumbria, Tees Valley and West Yorkshire.
For more on sustainable communities, including the first PFI housing renewal, see pages 40-52