This article looks at areas in construction where advances have been made since the Code for Sustainable Homes was launched in late 2006. Environmental information on building products is now routinely available to respond to the assessment requirements. The Code has required a consistent response from the supply chain.
Building Fabric and Energy Performance
The general industry view in 2007 was that Code Level 3 – a 25% improvement over Part L1A of the 2006 Building Regulations – was a step too far both technically and financially. In 2011, a quarter of all Code schemes at design stage now meet a comparable 44% improvement over this same building regulation baseline – Code Level 4. With that, more efficient systems and innovative products have been produced in the strive for better energy performance. NOx emissions in boilers and the Global Warming Potential of insulation have improved and reduced their environmental impact.
In 2009, as a result of a change in the Code Technical Guidance, the Air Source Heat Pump industry benefitted from arguably a ‘bubble’ boom with such products specified to take advantage of improved SAP efficiencies.
Roof top renewables, such as PV and solar thermal panels, have also seen a significant increase in use and better efficiencies produced. PV panel costs have reduced by approximately half since 2007 through increased use as a result of the Code and arguably the FiT (Feed in Tariff).
Water use reduction
Achieving Code Level 3 and 4 requires an internal water use figure of 105 litres per person per day. This is approximately 50 litres per person per day less than the national average. In striving to achieve the Code water use figure, manufacturers have come up with innovative products to reduce water consumption. Low water use dual flush WCs, aerating flow restrictors and more efficiently sized baths are all products specified for lower water use targets. Product information has also improved for the Code evidence purposes.
Responsible sourcing of Materials
In the early days of EcoHomes only large timber suppliers benefitted from being able to source FSC and PEFC timber with the required certification. Today most timber products are responsibly sourced. The Code has advanced this further, and we have seen a far greater number of suppliers of basic and finishing building elements being able to provide ISO14001, BES6001 and EMAS Certificates over recent years.
Surface Water Run-Off
The complexity in achieving the Code’s requirements in this Issue in certain locations has arguably been one of the biggest hurdles in Code compliance. The Code Guidance has, since its shift from attenuation to infiltration in early 2008, set the movement for a more responsible management of surface water run-off on housing schemes. The process of reducing run-off on site is significantly beneficial to the wider environment as it reduces flood risk. The Flood and Water Management Act is taking this movement further.
The level of improvement over Part E standards has increased consistently over the Code’s lifetime. Mainly driven by the need to secure the credits to achieve the overall Code rating, design teams are pushing party wall and floor constructions to ensure that a high level of noise attenuation is achieved between dwellings. This can only be beneficial to residents of these properties. Robust Details also have a specific section on their website linking their products to the levels of improvement required for respective Code points.