Common Sense Advice for House Builders

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has set ambitious targets for the provision of three million new homes by 2020. Sixty percent of these homes are targeted to be built on brownfield land and by 2016 all new homes in England and Wales are to be Zero Carbon.
 
 

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has set ambitious targets for the provision of three million new homes by 2020.

 
Sixty percent of these homes are targeted to be built on brownfield land and by 2016 all new homes in England and Wales are to be ‘Zero Carbon’.
 
Given the current lack of house building we are experiencing, these targets seem ambitious to say the least. People do, however, have to live, eat and sleep somewhere and given the population explosion that the current government has encouraged, it is a forgone conclusion that, at some stage, housing development will have to recover.
 
In the short term, however, we are in the midst of the worst recession I can remember and I am sure that Yvette Cooper, our Housing Minister, will be living in fear of the statistics for new homes built in 2009 when they are published at the end of the year.
 
Returning now to the zero carbon theme, building homes to a more sustainable standard should not necessarily lead to a significant increase in the cost of construction but, in these difficult times, doing so can provide Developers with a very welcome “safety net”. Although the general public may not currently be buying in their droves, passing off stock to Housing Associations can still be an option if the bank manager is causing you a few sleepless nights, BUT only if the stock has been built to a sustainable standard.
 
Retro-fitting energy conservation options on existing stock can be expensive and more often than not will still not get you to where you need to be. It is so much easier and cost-effective to design and build to a level of Code for Sustainable Homes from the outset! It amazes me that more house builders are not embracing this concept. 
 
The HCA (Homes and Communities Agency) are happy to fund social housing to off-the-shelf developments, provided some thought has gone into the design and the energy performance of the buildings. The Energy Performance of Buildings directive, in which the government has set targets to provide a decrease in carbon emissions from housing, is here to stay. So if you want the ability to sell off unsold stock to Registered Social Landlords and other “public” bodies, getting the right advice at the outset is important.
 
With so many 'green products' on the market it is hard to know what you need, and how much money you really need to spend, to reach an acceptable level of Sustainable Home. However, help is at hand. There are a number of professional practices who can provide you with a predictive assessment based on the standards you are prepared to build to, whilst providing a comparative cost analysis at the same time. The aim is to ensure that you meet the requirements set down in the HCA's standards in Sustainable Homes without breaking the bank.
 
Rising energy costs are making people far more attracted to 'A-Rated' buildings. There currently is no legislation to say that private developers need to build houses to a level of Code for Sustainable Homes but when the Building Regulations are next updated we can expect further moves in this direction. So Developers, why not put your green foot forward now and be prepared for these changes?
 
Peter Vinden is a practising adjudicator, mediator, expert and conciliator. He is Managing Director of Vinden and he can be contacted by email at pvinden@vinden.co.uk
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