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Sustainable Homes

Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

Tackling the huge challenge of climate change is one of this Government’s highest priorities. The Government have committed to ambitious emissions reduction plans and have set in legislation a target to reduce UK carbon emissions by 80 per cent. against 1990 levels by 2050. In the UK, nearly half of our carbon emissions come from buildings—27 per cent. of these are from our homes and a further 17 per cent. from other non-domestic buildings. Reducing emissions from our homes is therefore an important part of the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

Code for Sustainable Homes

The Code for sustainable homes aims to improve the overall sustainability of new homes by setting a single national standard for England, Wales and Northern Ireland within which the home building industry can design and construct homes to higher environmental standards, and giving new home buyers better information about the environmental impact of their new home and its potential running costs. It helps people to cut their carbon emissions and to lead a more sustainable lifestyle in general and provides practical experience to support future regulatory steps to help achieve the challenging commitment of requiring all new homes built from 2016 to be zero-carbon.

Since its introduction in 2007, over 300,000 homes have been registered to be built to Code standards, and nearly 2,000 certificates have been issued for completed homes. We now have our first set of Code level six homes.

But while practical experience of working with the Code is informing the development of other aspects of sustainability policy (for example the development of surface water management proposals in the current Floods and Water Management Bill), it has also established some questions over existing standards and the processes for assessment. We also now need to revise the Code to incorporate the new regulatory standards we have and are putting in place, and plan for more stretching energy efficiency standards, including our 2016 zero-carbon standard. To ensure the Code can continue to play a central role in supporting more cost effective sustainable housing development in future, we propose to revise the Code.

I am therefore launching a consultation today on the revisions I propose to the Code for sustainable homes. The consultation is focused on three broad aims for changes:

Aligning the Code with the latest developments in the zero-carbon homes policy—to enable it to continue to reflect the future regulatory trajectory and provide practical experience for developers and inform the development of detailed regulatory proposals for 2013 and beyond. This includes consulting on the new energy efficiency standard to be required of zero-carbon homes;

streamlining the standard and processes—learning from experience to date, to ensure that the Code is focused on the issues of greatest significance and that we eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy; and

resolving problems that have arisen in use seeking to find practical solutions to barriers that have arisen in the use of the Code so far, balancing sustainability policy aims with the practicalities of house building in the current economic climate.

Zero-Carbon Homes

In my written ministerial statement of 16 July 2009, I confirmed our commitment and approach to zero-carbon homes. A zero-carbon home is one with a high standard of energy efficiency, a minimum level of on-site carbon reduction and whose remaining emissions are addressed via a range of further carbon reduction measures known as ‘allowable solutions’.

On 24 November 2009, I set out a further written ministerial statement announcing the minimum fabric energy efficiency standard that we would require in zero-carbon homes and that we would consult on this as part of the revision of the Code for sustainable homes. The Code consultation published today therefore seeks views on the fabric energy efficiency standards that should apply to all new homes from 2013 and 2016.

Work continues to put in place the practical arrangements that would be required to permit allowable solutions to be put in place to ensure that standards are achieved in practice and on setting a guideline maximum price we expect industry to bear in implementing allowable solutions. We will seek, in line with the Chancellor’s pre-Budget report, practical ways of reducing the costs.

The Government will take full account of the views received in refining the Code and the zero-carbon definition. The consultation will close on 24 March 2010.

I am publishing the following documents for this consultation, which together will help the Government take forward the Sustainable Buildings programme.

“Sustainable New Homes: The Road to Zero Carbon (Consultation on the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Energy Efficiency standard for Zero Carbon Homes)”. This is available on our website: www.communities.gov.uk/thecode.

“The Draft Code for Sustainable Homes Technical Guide”. This is also available on our website later this week.

“The Code for Sustainable Homes Impact Assessment and the Zero Carbon Homes Impact Assessment (Updated 2009)”. These will be available on our website later this week.

I am placing copies of the consultation paper in the Library of the House, and will also do so with the “Draft Code Technical guide and Impact Assessments” later this week.