Thursday, October 04, 2007

Drilling Down into the Code: Part 3

The Code for Sustainable Homes is a hotch potch. Whilst zero carbon and, to a much lesser extent, water use reduction have been discussed at length, if you were to build the most energy and water efficient house possible, you’d still only score 44% of the maximum available eco points. That would get you to Code Level 1. Code Level 6, the top level, requires a score of 90%.

So how would you go about garnering the other percentage points required to lever your house up from Code Level 1 to Level 6?

The answer is that you have to accumulate credits (of varying value) by undertaking all manner of other actions. Some are relatively easy:
• Provision for cycle storage — score 2.5%
• Provision of a home office — score 1.25%
• Provision of recycling bins and a compost bin — 4.75%
• Use EU approved insulation — 0.6%

Others are more taxing and potentially a lot more costly
• Build to Lifetime Homes standards — 4.75%
• Build to Secured by Design standards — 2.25%
• Improve on Part E sound regulations — 4.75%
• Use A+ rated materials from the Green Guide for Specification — 4.5%
• Build into the basement or the loftspace — 2.65%

You can only afford to lose 10% of the credits available if you want to qualify for Code Level 6. As there are likely to be some areas where your site cannot score at all, the likelihood is that designers will be forced to incorporate practically every feature mentioned in the Code. The elbow room for trade-off is remarkably limited.

This is where the Code gets into sticky ground. A lot of these features — there are 34 tests applied in all — are concerned with good design and best practice, but not necessarily to do with sustainability. For instance, having your builder signed up for the Considerate Contractors Scheme (worth 2.25%) is all very well but doesn’t really make much difference to climate change. So why is it being included in the Code?

And the requirement for A or A+ rated materials is effectively going to blacklist an awful lot of C rated materials. I am not sure the PVCu manufacturers have yet twigged this, but the Code has it in for them.

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Blogger John Burke said...

The point of this code and many like it is pure politics. Call me cynical but, the remit for the sustainability side is filled with a "green" nirvana based view of the planet, with the provision of bicycle space being a point in question. The ecological study will also surely be centred on the provision for bat boxes, badger access and rare frog breeding habits.
Throw in the fact that these schemes need you to pay somebody some money in membership or assessment then it starts to look like taxation.

1:49 p.m.  
OpenID wookey said...

Bicycle space is very sensible, practical and green. It seems a poor example to pick on as being illustrative of 'green nirvana'. But clearly the stuff about 'secured by design' and 'considerate contractors' makes little sense.

Yes it is 'political' to get greener housing built, but it's also necessary, and the bike being a staple of travel is just one item of many that is affected by the built infrastructure.

4:18 p.m.  
Anonymous Max said...

Despite its name, the 'Code for Sustainable Homes' has never been focused only on sustanability.

The Code replaced EcoHomes (which also received criticism, but which was better focused) for political reasons, rather than for pure sustainability reasons, and was used as a way for government to pursuade publicly funded housing providers to incorporate varius government inititives and concerns into their design. Hence the reason for the inclusion of Lifetime Homes, Secured by Design, etc. Even the WWF pulled out from the steering group because they saw the contents as a retrograde step.
And it is clearly nonsence that even the ultimate in energy and water efficient homes can only reach Level 1.

I find it surprising that there is not a much more active lobby to scrap the Code and start again with a new ''EcoHomes II'' that is is based on hard calculations of sustainability in terms of carbon emmissions or other tangible impacts.

2:55 p.m.  
Anonymous Max said...

Further to my comment above, and in fairness to the WWF, I see that they did later welcome the Code

3:40 p.m.  
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