The HBF has convinced the government that homes can be built with excellent acoustic standards without subjecting housebuilders to testing. Phew, that's a relief.
It's been a good week for housebuilders. On Monday the ODPM accepted the concept of Robust Standard Details put forward by the House Builders Federation's as an alternative to acoustic testing.

The Minister responsible for Building Regulations said that the government was "Satisfied that RSDs can provide an effective alternative to pre-completion testing but are now consulting on the issue in order to gain a wider spectrum of opinion."

A year ago the government proposed that housebuilders test a proportion of all new dwellings to prove that they would comply with the tough new acoustic Building Regulations. It backed down when the HBF claimed that acoustic testing to prove compliance with Part E of the Building Regulations would be too costly and would delay the completion of much needed new homes.

Housebuilders were particularly worried about the financial consequence of their homes failing acoustic tests. If one home fell short of the requirement then the developer would have to suffer the cost of carrying out remedial work on all similar housetypes in the development.

The government told housebuilders a year ago that it would consider allowing RSDs if the HBF could prove that a large enough safety margin had been built into the details to withstand shoddy standards of workmanship.

To convince the Government that RSDs would be robust enough the HBF and its members have spent the last 10 months testing Candidate RSDs in hundreds of new dwellings. The testing was rigorous: of around 30 CRSDs tested in housing developments only 13 were submitted to the ODPM as part of the HBF's proposals.

The door is not closed on those construction types that fail the tests: the designs can be tweaked and resubmitted as a CRSD. Other CRSDs missed the first cut-off point because there were not enough sites available for them to be tested on. They will eventually reach RSD status if they undergo 30 tests and meet the performance requirements.

The HBF has gone out of its way to make sure no manufacturer feels disenfranchised and each material group – steel, timber and masonry/concrete – is represented among the 13 RSDs. According to the HBF there are a further nine CRSDs that could soon become fully fledged RSDs.

Housebuilders could choose to still carry out pre-completion testing to prove compliance with Part E. Indeed the government has published figures that show in some circumstances it will be cheaper to test than build RSDs. But this will be the exception rather than the rule. Housebuilders can pass on the cost of building an RSD to the housebuyer and they don't run the risk of having to pay for the upgrading of lots of homes if one dwelling fails the acoustic test.

Part E comes into force for new dwellings on 1 January 2004.