The Code for Sustainable Homes is an environmental impact rating used in the United Kingdom to raise standards of house design. Essentially a tick box exercise, new developments are scored against a series of criteria, with the total points gained determining their rating, from the low scoring Level 1 to ‘zero-carbon’ Level 6. Since 2010, Code Level 3 has been a mandatory rating for all new housing developments, with plans to raise this baseline in coming years.
The introduction of the Code has no doubt gone a long way to improving sustainability in the construction industry. For too long developers have hidden behind costs, claiming eco-design is simply too expensive to implement. The Code has forced the issue, allowing sustainability to become a powerful element within modern design as well as reducing costs and increasing accessibility of green technologies thanks to the efficiency of mass production.
Yet it is not all good news. As the code has become more widespread so its flaws have become more obvious, particularly its tendency to stifle creativity in new housing. The cheapest point scoring areas have been identified and developers will push for these over anything more adventurous or costly. Added to this, certain points are impossible to gain depending on the location or condition of a site, meaning that even on a ‘zero carbon’ development Code 6 can be officially unattainable.
It would be rash to assume we have found the perfect solution. For all the improvements the Code has given, it could be so much more. If we want to see the best of architects then we need to be more flexible, allowing alternative solutions to a currently rigid framework and perhaps the ability to trade points from different areas. For example one peculiarity is the restrictions on water consumption within new dwellings. If a house recycles rainwater, why should a limit on water usage be imposed?
If a new environmental non-profit organisation were established to oversee this, what would you recommend they change first?
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