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Environmental Audit Committee's Conclusions on the Housing Standards Review are Disappointing, Says POS

Date: 20/11/2013

Today the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons has published its report on the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Housing Standards Review. It urges DCLG not to wind the Code down and criticises the regime proposed in the Housing Standards Review.

POS is of the view  that the Committee's recognition of the need to deliver sustainability in line with local circumstances and local choices is welcome.

Paul Watson,  author of the Society's response on the Housing Standards Review, said "it's overall conclusions are disappointing and misses the point that a responsive & effective system of updating Building Regulations which drives improved building performance would preclude any need to have another, twin track regime, especially one that can in places overburden the planning process and generate a whole host of industry and local standards that results in the incoherent, confusing and inefficient picture that we have today."

Watson added "if the standards proposed by HSR are considered too weak, improve them but don't throw out the baby with the bath water."

Paul_Watson.jpgPaul Watson, Society Vice President Emeritus

  • Read the BBC news item
  • Summary of the Environmental Audit Committee's views:
    • The Committee said that standards of sustainability in Building Regulations had evolved to follow the CSH since its introduction in 2007. That twin-track approach embedded a degree of sustainability in all new homes, because Building Regulations were universal e.g once-difficult-to-achieve lower-level CSH standards on energy had been successfully embedded in Building Regulations. 
    • DCLG did not need to introduce new national baseline standards, because Building Regulations, as currently constituted, already provided an effective baseline. Beyond that, the CSH was a flexible means of delivering sustainability in line with local circumstances and local choice.
    • As new technologies came to market, sustainable development evolved and local circumstances changed, the CSH could continue to set a mark for Building Regulations to follow. The single-track approach of simply setting standards in Building Regulations was undesirable, because it would not include a higher standard to drive incremental improvements and to measure progress, a role currently fulfilled by the CSH.
    • The specifications around the zero carbon homes target had been watered down to such an extent that the proposed standards in Building Regulations now fell some way short of the higher levels of the CSH. There was no guarantee that further dilution will not occur in the run-up to the implementation of zero carbon homes in 2016.
    • In light of the volume of construction required to meet medium term demand for housing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, DCLG had a once-in- a-generation opportunity to embed sustainability in the national housing stock through appropriate regulation. Unfortunately, the regime proposed in the HSR [Housing Standards Review] consultation is too weak to ensure that those homes would be constructed to a robust sustainable standard.
    • The CSH, as it was currently constituted, could be improved. If DCLG were to update the CSH to take account of evolving technology and standards of sustainability, it would have an effective mechanism by which incrementally to embed sustainability in home building for the long term. 


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