January 03 2012

The Code for Sustainable Homes in the United Kingdom: A Review

The Code For Sustainable Homes

The Code for Sustainable Homes is an environmental impact rating used in the United Kingdom to raise standards of house design. Essentially a tick box exercise, new developments are scored against a series of criteria, with the total points gained determining their rating, from the low scoring Level 1 to ‘zero-carbon’ Level 6. Since 2010, Code Level 3 has been a mandatory rating for all new housing developments, with plans to raise this baseline in coming years.

The introduction of the Code has no doubt gone a long way to improving sustainability in the construction industry. For too long developers have hidden behind costs, claiming eco-design is simply too expensive to implement. The Code has forced the issue, allowing sustainability to become a powerful element within modern design as well as reducing costs and increasing accessibility of green technologies thanks to the efficiency of mass production.

Yet it is not all good news.  As the code has become more widespread so its flaws have become more obvious, particularly its tendency to stifle creativity in new housing. The cheapest point scoring areas have been identified and developers will push for these over anything more adventurous or costly. Added to this, certain points are impossible to gain depending on the location or condition of a site, meaning that even on a ‘zero carbon’ development Code 6 can be officially unattainable.

It would  be rash to assume we have found the perfect solution. For all the improvements the Code has given, it could be so much more. If we want to see the best of architects then we need to be more flexible, allowing alternative solutions to a currently rigid framework and perhaps the ability to trade points from different areas. For example one peculiarity is the restrictions on water consumption within new dwellings. If a house recycles rainwater, why should a limit on water usage be imposed?

If a new environmental non-profit organisation were established to oversee this, what would you recommend they change first?

Credits: Images and documents linked to source.

Ashley Roberts

Ashley Roberts is a recent graduate of the University of Nottingham, England, with a Diploma in Architecture and is now studying for his part-three accreditation. Still living in Nottingham, but with strong links to Liverpool and London, he has a passion for the continued and sustainable development of all three cities. Ashley has a particular interest in how we can use green technologies as a catalyst to improve the spaces around us. Follow him on twitter: @ashjroberts

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at 9:17 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Energy, Environment, Environmental Design, Environmental Non-Profit, Government/Politics, Housing, Landscape Architecture, Technology, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “The Code for Sustainable Homes in the United Kingdom: A Review”

  1. Ollie Westover Says:

    Hi there,

    A couple of clarifications are needed. Code 3 is not mandatory for new housing (except publicly funded) and there are no plans for it to become so.

    Secondly, I think it is unfair to blame the Code for stifling innovation, without something to back it up. I have designed a Code 6 scheme, and at no time felt the design was dictated by the Code (except the roof form, with the requirement for lots of PV)

    Lastly, the comment about rainwater harvesting is wrong. The input of RWH is factored into the calculations, and there is benefit to be gained. In any case, the Code is just an extension of the Part G requirements (only more onerous), so the same would be true of Building Regulations.

    Absolutely agree that the Code is not perfect, but it is getting better…

    Hope that’s useful


  2. Ashley Roberts Says:

    I know that level 3 is mandatory for all publicly funded housing (where the majority of my experience lies) and as far as I was aware the government had set out a timeline to continue this into the private sector – perhaps this has changed as a result of recent austerity measures and the removal of HIPs.

    I’m not saying that you can’t be innovative with the code, just that with pressure from clients and developers the code is quite often used as an easy option, allowing people to hide behind ticking the easy to gain and cheaper sections of the code.

    From personal experience the issue with rainwater harvesting was an annoyance, perhaps there was another way round it.

    Thanks for your comments, all feedback is much appreciated!


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