Industry set to design fewer than half the number of code level 5 and 6 homes this year than last

Ministers’ moves to slacken carbon reduction targets for homes have been blamed for a slowdown in the number of homes being designed to the highest levels of sustainability.

Official figures show that the building industry is on course to build fewer than half the number of code level 5 and 6 homes under the Code for Sustainable Home this year than it did last year. It would be the first year to see a fall in the number of designs certified at this level since the code was introduced in 2008.  

In the first nine months of the 2011/12 financial year there were 129 certificates awarded for the two highest levels but in the same period last year, 311 certificates were awarded.

However, there has been a growth in code level 4 houses, which now account for 29% of design certificates awarded, up from 13% over the period.

Neil Cutland, director of sustainability consultant Cutland Consulting, said the drop was a consequence of government policy.

He said: “The government has this big thing about reducing the regulatory burden and they quickly said you didn’t have to build to anything above Building Regulations.”

He added that the removal of the requirement for new social housing to meet code level 4 or 5 to be eligible for funding from the Homes and Communities Agency had also had a big impact.

“Why would you do it if no one is making you? The enthusiasts will do it because they want to but most people will do it because they are being made to,” he said.

Last summer, the government also changed the definition of zero carbon homes, which will come into force in 2016, to bring it much closer to code level 5, when previously it was set at code level 6.

Andrew Mellor, head of director of environment at PRP Architects, said the change in definition had removed the need to build to the code level 6 standards. He said: “I don’t see why anyone would really do code 6 now.”

He added that he had seen such high-spec developments cancelled or downgraded because of high costs, which were deemed unviable in the ongoing downturn.