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The Code for Sustainable Homes is an environmental impact rating system for housing in England, setting new standards for energy efficiency (above those in current building regulations) and sustainability which are not mandatory under current building regulations but represent important developments towards limiting the environmental impact of housing.

History

The Code was officially launched on December 13, 2006, and was introduced as a voluntary standard in England in 2007.The Code complements the system of Energy Performance Certificates for new homes introduced in 2008 under the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and builds on the most recent changes to Building Regulations in England and Wales.

The Government-owned scheme is a successor to the Building Research Establishmentmarker's EcoHomes rating scheme first used in 2000. Although the Code currently applies only to newly-built dwellings in England, the National Welsh Assembly recently announced a plan to adopt the code, and Northern Ireland are required to achieve a code level 3 on all public sector homes from April 2008. In February 2008 Stroma Accreditation won the license to training and accredit code assessors, this was pushed through by communities and local government (CLG) as fears from a lack of assessors to cover demand.

In March 2008, the UK government announced a mandatory requirement for all new homes to be rated against the Code from May 2008. No specific star ratings or assessments are set, but the rating means that every new home owner will know whether their home was built to higher standards than building regulations and what standards had been met.The rating also acts as an incentive to home builders to consider building to the Code's higher standards, whilst making the information routinely available will encourage consumers to be more demanding.

Technical guidance is amended on a six-monthly basis (April – October) to reflect changes in materials and building techniques resulting from feedback from assessors and industry.

Description

The code works by awarding new homes a star rating from 1 to 6, based on their performance against 9 sustainability criteria which are combined to assess the overall environmental impact.One star is entry level above building regulations, and six stars is the highest, reflecting exemplary developments in terms of sustainability.

The sustainability criteria by which new homes are measured are:

  • Energy and CO2 Emissions – Operational Energy and resulting emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (both of which have minimum standards that must be met at each level of the code)


  • Water H20 & Surface Water Run-off – The change in surface water run-off patterns as a result of the development– The consumption of potable water from the public supply systems or other ground water resources (each of which have minimum standards to be met at entry level)


  • Materials – The environmental impact of construction materials for key construction elements(no mandatory minimum standards).


  • Waste – Waste generated as a result of the construction process and facilities encouraging recycling of domestic waste in the home (no mandatory minimum standards).


  • Pollution – Pollution resulting from the operation of the dwelling (no mandatory minimum standards).


  • Health and Well-Being – The effects that the dwelling’s design and indoor environment has on its occupants (no mandatory minimum standards).


  • Management – Steps that have been taken to allow good management of the environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the home (no mandatory minimum standards).


  • Ecology – The impact of the dwelling on the local ecosystem, bio-diversity and land use (no mandatory minimum standards).


Application

The Code for Sustainable Homes is to be compulsory where public sector (Homes and Communities Agency) funding is involved, but voluntary in the private sector.

In the consultation document Building a Greener Future: Towards Zero Carbon Development it is proposed that all new homes should be rated against the Code for Sustainable Homes from April 2008, although it would not be necessary to comply with a minimum standard in the private sector.

Currently, compliance with the Code is voluntary, with a long-term view for it to become mandatory. However, landowners and agents are already selling sites with stipulations to build at a certain Code level.

The cost implications have also raised concern amongst housebuilders. The extra cost of building to Code Level 3 is valued at around £10000, a significant add-on to already high-priced houses. This has raised the question whether or not the customer is willing to pay this increase.

On the 27 February 2008 the Government confirmed that from 1 May 2008 it would be mandatory for all new homes to have a rating against the CFSH When houses are sold, it is mandatory for them to have an energy performance certificate. If there has not been an assessment carried out, then a zero rating is given. This provides a very good incentive for developers to reach a higher rating. In fact more and more companies are including the CFSH and BREEAM in their corporate policy.

CFSH Level 1 is equivalent to a 10% improvement over current Building Regulations energy standards, but by sometime in 2010, Part L standard is set to rise to a mandatory CFSH level 3. It is also anticipated that the thresholds and the level of requirements will continue to improve until eventually, all buildings will be zero carbon and energy demands will be met by onsite renewable technologies by 2016.

ndhomes based in Carlisle received planning permission on Friday 29 May 2009, for what is believed to be the first commercial whole estate level 4 CSH development in the UK.

Guidance is also available via the code simply explained published document to demistify the technical requirements.

Reaction

The scheme was welcomed by the WWF for putting zero carbon development at the top of the industry agenda, and by the Association for Environment Conscious Building. Other reactions were generally welcoming, but with some reservations.

Views of the scheme were not always so positive; early drafts were heavily criticised by industry commentators, both for being unnecessary (due to it being apparently modelled on the existing EcoHomes scheme) and due to its contents. In December 2005 the WWF representative on the Steering Group resigned "in despair" due to the failure of government to accept the Steering Group's advice and recommendations. The Construction Products Association criticised the original proposals as being confusing. The Sustainable Development Commission is keen that the standard is extended to cover existing homes, and covers this and other recommendations in its report 'Stock Take'.

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