EAC: Pickles “should think again before demolishing the Code for Sustainable Homes”

The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has strongly criticised the government’s move to wind down the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH).

In its report, the EAC found that local choice for sustainable solutions will be curtailed in favour of a “lowest-common-denominator national standard”, a move that “bulldozes local choice”. The EAC also believes that proposed replacement for CSH, the 2016 zero carbon homes standard, has been “significantly diluted” and is in need of revision.

Commenting on the results of the review, EAC chair Joan Walley MP said: “The secretary of state should think again before demolishing CSH. The policy has been a big success in driving up home building standards, delivering local choice and supporting green exports.”

The EAC accuses DCLG of ignoring the latest research which demonstrates the rapid decreasing cost of renewable energy technology in its consultation. As a result, the committee states that “DCLG has failed to back green growth and green innovation by setting clear standards on sustainable construction materials".

In the Housing Standards Review, DCLG suggests “amending or removing” the CSH and the Planning and Energy Act. But the EAC says that such measures are required to incentivise on-site renewables in new build properties given the weak improvements to Building Regulations Part L in the summer. Specifically, the committee is calling on DCLG to examine the latest research on the decreasing cost of clean energy technologies; refresh the CSH as a tool for local authorities to lever in sustainability; and retain CSH standards on sustainable construction materials to support green exports and green growth.

Commenting on the EAC review, REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: “DCLG must open its eyes to the cost reductions and economic opportunities in new build renewables, from solar panels to wood burners to heat pumps. Building energy efficient homes with their own clean energy supply means lower energy bills for occupants from the day they move in. The costs of on-site renewables are continuing to fall and installing them during construction rather than retrofit makes them even cheaper.

STA chief executive Paul Barwell added: “The cost of putting solar panels on your roof plummeted by 70% between 2011 and 2013, and we expect to see solar hot water systems come down in price by 30% as that market develops. Solar is a popular choice for developers as it is easy to install and well understood by the public.

“With conventional energy bills soaring, more and more people are looking to generate their own energy instead of buying from the Big Six. The government must seize this opportunity to lock in low energy bills and low carbon emissions for new homes.”

Walley concluded: “Hundreds of thousands of homes have to be built in the coming decades. Smart energy and water saving measures – which will ultimately save homeowners money on their bills – must become the norm if we want our homes to be fit for the future.

“The Code for Sustainable Homes incentivises developers and designers to think about sustainability from the outset of a project and throughout the development process. It is a proven and flexible way of pushing up home building standards and should not be dropped.”