Planning update
    Cracking Code

    Cracking the Building Codes

    Change is in the air for building standards in England and Wales. A Housing Standards Review is underway.

    In a consultation that took place over the summer, the UK Government suggested that, due to the progressive strengthening of the Building Regulations, the time is right for a review of the Code for Sustainable Homes. In a nutshell, the government is committed to the Building Regulations being the preferred way of driving up energy performance standards, not the Code.

    The government reaffirmed in Budget 2013 its commitment to achieve zero carbon new homes from 2016. The Building Regulations standards –under their Part L - have already surpassed the lower levels of the Code and are currently set somewhere between Code levels 3 and 4. Over the next three years the Building Regulations will be strengthened yet further.

    The important difference is that the Building Regulations are functional: they are ‘technology neutral’, setting out performance based standards that must be met, but do not prescribe how to do so. The Code, by comparison, measures the sustainability of a new home against wide ranging categories of sustainable design, rating the ‘whole home’ as a complete package.

    In many ways, the Code was designed to point the way for evolving Building Regulation requirements. But as the Building Regulations have now caught up, this pathfinder role for the Code has increasingly fallen away.

    Consequently, the recent consultations explore how a zero carbon standard might be achieved via the Building Regulations.  It is acknowledged that increased building efficiency is unlikely to be enough. So, the main proposal is to create a mechanism which factors in off-site measures. These are known as ‘allowable solutions’.

    Under the proposals, 100% of requirements could be met on site; or through off site actions (including renewable energy schemes or retrofitting existing buildings); or by contracting with a third party provider; or paying into a fund which then invests in suitable projects; or via a combination of any of these. The combination of on-site and off-site linked measures would need to achieve a ‘zero sum’.

    The Government has pointed out that the progressive strengthening of the Building Regulations will mean that it would no longer be appropriate for Local Plan policies to specify how much of the energy use of new homes should come from on-site renewables. Developers would be free to decide the most appropriate zero sum solution, whether on –site or off-site.

    This would mean that ‘Merton Rule’ requirements, requiring an on-site quota of energy generation, would become redundant. Since 2016 is only three years away, local authorities might, therefore, want to take this into account now when drawing up new policies.

    The result would be a clearer break between the role of land use planning in shaping the location of development, including energy infrastructure, and the role of the Building Regulations as the main driver of the energy performance of new buildings.

     

     
     

    Key contacts

    David Henry

    David Henry

    Director
    Planning

    Savills Cambridge

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253