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Sustainability in New Homes: Guidance for Local Authority stakeholders on carbon reduction, overheating and assuring performance

The end of the financial year saw the launch of the Sustainability in New Homes Playbook – v1 to approximately 180 cross sector delegates including housing developers, consultants and local government representatives.

The playbook is the output of a UKGBC collaboration and forms a part of their Core Cities Programme intended to catalyse partnerships and drive forward sustainable development in city regions. This specific project however has been designed for Local Authorities (planning and development/housing delivery agents) across England (outside of London), and looks to provide consistency and drive ambition in the delivery of much needed sustainable, quality new homes.

It has been produced through extensive market and public sector consultation and is intended to be a co-owned, accessible and living document.

Why has BRE supported this?

Over the past year our engagement with Local Authorities (significantly planning departments) has highlighted a need for clarity and confidence boost in the sustainability/climate change mitigation and adaptation agenda.  Despite the powers of planners to push for standards beyond regs existing (albeit with conditions in respect to new homes), the complexity of the current political and legal context has proven a significant barrier for local agents. This output provides an industry endorsed and legally sound reference point. It should give local government stakeholders (planners, members and community representatives) the confidence to push for higher sustainability standards in line with the potential in their respective areas and without restricting housing delivery.

The full suite of documents can be found on the UKGBC website (including an editable PowerPoint version).

The playbook itself:

  • clarifies the current legal and policy context – providing both the rationale and a reference point for planning policy makers to draw upon when pushing for higher standards (particularly in respect to carbon reduction)
  • provides guidance in respect to carbon emission reduction and overheating risk – recommending a target of a 19% carbon emission reduction beyond the regulatory baseline (provided viability and all other policy making checks/balances have been adhered) with an ambition for all new homes to be net zero carbon y 2030 and the implementation of an overheating risk framework
  • advocates the adoption of HQM (and a number of other schemes) as effective means of assuring performance is actually delivered on site
  • provides insight into viability modelling and its possible future direction

There are also case studies and examples of adopted and emerging policy.

The ambition is that this acts as a starting point and basis for a much more comprehensive approach to sustainability.  As the owners of holistic, certifiable assessment frameworks; the Home Quality Mark (HQM), but also BREEAM (for communities and non-domestic buildings) and CEEQUAL (for infrastructure and public realm), we look forward to this evolvement of the playbook.

We also urge public (and private) stakeholders not to lose sight of the fact that the energy consumption in buildings, when in operation, can regularly be three times higher than predicted at design stage.  Closing the performance gap, not just in energy but across all facets of sustainability, is a challenge that BRE has been at the front of addressing for some time (for further info see Buzz post ‘bridging the gap’ and search for ‘gap’). The methodologies within our schemes and accredited third party assessment processes give policy makers and specifiers the confidence that specific standards have been well considered throughout both the design and constructions stages; assuring that a level of performance has been delivered on site.

At a time when consumer confidence in much needed new homes is low and planning department resources are stretched, the role and value of certifiable assessment frameworks; the HQM, have, arguably, never been so evident.