Skip to main content

Sustainable Communities Plan

Volume 708: debated on Monday 23 February 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the construction methods for new homes in the United Kingdom comply with the 2003 Sustainable Communities Plan; and, if not, what plans they have to ensure compliance. [HL1527]

The Sustainable Communities Plan, published in 2003, set out a long-term vision and programme of action to create decent homes in good quality local environments across England. As part of this plan, the Government set out actions related to construction methods. This included actions to promote modern methods of construction (MMC). MMC can be defined as construction that uses modern processes to provide more, better quality houses in less time. It can apply to homes built on and off-site.

The Sustainable Communities Plan set out that some 25 per cent of the homes funded by the (then) Housing Corporation in the south-east would be built using MMC. In the two years following publication of the Sustainable Communities Plan (2004-05 and 2005-06) the Housing Corporation approved investment in London and the south-east which is resulting in the construction and delivery of 13,297 MMC units. This represents some 40 per cent of the total number of homes delivered in both regions.

The vision set out in the Sustainable Communities Plan was for new housing to be more sustainable. It proposed that building regulations would be kept under review with this in mind, and set a new requirement that, as a condition of grant, all new homes funded by the public sector should achieve the Eco-Homes pass standard. This was put in place. However, since 2003, the Government have taken more steps to improve further the sustainability of new homes. The Code for Sustainable Homes (the code) became operational in 2007 and replaced Eco-Homes as the sustainable standard in house building. All homes supported by funding from the Homes and Communities Agency must now be built to code level 3. The code, like building regulations, is outcome based and does not require a particular construction method. However, using MMC may be useful to achieve code levels.

Steps have also been taken to strengthen building regulations. In 2006, the Government published revisions to part L of the building regulations which set higher standards for energy performance. A policy commitment was published in July 2007 to control the water efficiency of new dwellings through changes to the building regulations. And in 2008 a consultation was launched on proposed changes that would add to part G of these regulations a requirement for new homes to be built to a water efficiency standard of 1251itres/person/day. We plan to publish a final revised version of part G and the accompanying guidance later in 2009 with the intention of it coming into force before the end of this calendar year.

In July 2007, the Government confirmed their objective for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016, to be achieved through a progressive tightening of the building regulations from the 2006 standard. And in their 2008 Budget, the Government set out an ambition for all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon from 2019, with an earlier target (2018) for new public sector buildings. The Definition of Zero Carbon Homes and Non-Domestic Buildings consultation, published on 17 December 2008, sets out the Government's current thinking in this area and calls for further evidence in anticipation of an in-depth consultation on new non-domestic buildings in 2009. This document is accessible on the department's website at www.