SE5: Sustainable building standards
Description and rationale for policy objective
The introduction of sustainable building standards may help you ensure that the environmental impacts of new developments and refurbishments are reduced. Such assessments usual take into account aspects of sustainability other than carbon emissions (e.g. water use and waste) so they may be useful across a number of other policy areas.
The UK's two main assessment frameworks are the Code for Sustainable Homes (for dwellings ) and BREEAM (for non-domestic buildings). Both of these assign a rating to buildings based on the performance in the categories such as management, health and wellbeing, energy, water, materials, waste, ecology, and pollution. In addition, the 'Code' scores buildings for surface-water run-off, and BREEAM scores for transport.
A local authority could of course create a policy which simply introduced a specific Code Level or BREEAM rating requirement for new developments in an area, or for a strategic site, and this is, indeed, what many do.
A less blunt alternative is to set a certain level of performance under specific issues within the assessment. This could include:
- Requiring developers to meet the carbon reduction standards specified in Code level 4 (a 44% reduction), or BREEAM 'Excellent' (an EPC rating of 40 or less). This viability of this is covered as part of task 2 for SE4.
- Requiring developers to meet the water efficiency standards of Code levels 5 and 6 (a maximum potable water consumption of 80 litres per person per day)
Any policy requiring a particular level of performance must be consistent. It would be unreasonable for instance to demand different performance levels for different buildings on a single development site - unless there was a clear reason for doing so.
In setting any requirements it will be important to bear in mind the following:
Longevity of the policy
It is anticipated that BREEAM will be replaced by a ‘Code for Sustainable Buildings’ at some point in the future, and proposed changes to the CSH methodology were published in December 2009 to reflect expected changes to the Building Regulations. The potential implications for policy making are as follows:
- For policies that relate to BREEAM, you may wish to also include wording along the lines of “or equivalent approved assessment method”
- For the Code, you may wish to avoid stating any specific level of carbon reduction, or number of credits, but instead refer to the carbon reduction required for a given Code level (e.g. “the carbon reduction requirement for Code level 4 ...”). The advantage of this approach is that the Code guidance (which is regularly updated) will set out the evoloving relationship between the Code and Building Regulations, rather than you having to second guess it in your policy
Whilst a policy based around sustainable building standards could be applied at different scales, there are reasons why you may not want to create a policy which operates across an entire development area (such as an urban extension). This is because sustainable building assessments, and BREEAM in particular, are heavily influenced by the location and conditions of each specific site. This means that setting a target which affects all sites in the area may have a significantly different level of impact depending on which site is being considered.
It may therefore be more appropriate to set targets for each strategic site within your local authority area, depending on the results of some of the early tasks associated with this policy objective (SE5 task 1, SE5 task 2 and SE5 task 3, left).
Finally, there are numerous examples of local authorities that have set BREEAM and Code standards for new development. One example is Policy CS10 of the Ashford Core Strategy (adopted July 2008) which includes targets for different aspects of the Code and BREEAM and tailored for different development areas.
Another example is Policy PCS33 in the Borough of Poole’s adopted core strategy (February 2009) which sets out a requirement of BREEAM Excellent for commercial buildings. For others, see the Energy Saving Trust case studies for planning policies.
Para. 31: "There will be situations where it could be appropriate for planning authorities to anticipate levels of building sustainability in advance of those set out nationally. When proposing any local requirements for sustainable buildings planning authorities must be able to demonstrate clearly the local circumstances that warrant and allow this. These could include, for example, where:
- there are clear opportunities for significant use of decentralised and renewable or low carbon energy;
- or without the requirement, for example on water efficiency, the envisaged development would be unacceptable for its proposed location."
Para. 32: “When proposing any local requirement for sustainable buildings planning authorities should:
- focus on development area (The Climate Change PPS defines this as “part of a planning authority’s area where development is anticipated, which could be an urban extension or town centre”, i.e. not area wide) or site-specific opportunities;
- specify the requirement in terms of achievement of nationally described sustainable buildings standards, for example in the case of housing by expecting identified housing proposals to be delivered at a specific level of the Code for Sustainable Homes”.
- ensure the requirement is consistent with their policies on decentralised energy; and
- not require local approaches for a building’s environmental performance on matters relating to construction techniques, building fabrics, products, fittings or finishes, or for measuring a building’s performance unless for reasons of landscape or townscape.
The Code for Sustainable Homes is a government-led assessment procedure. A dwelling is assigned a Code Level from 1 to 6 (6 being best), depending on its environmental performance. There are a number of mandatory elements which must also be achieved at each Code Level.
Any social housing securing HCA funding under the National Affordable Housing Programme is required to achieve a minimum Code level - Level 3 at the time of writing (February 2010).
BREEAM is an assessment method delivered and audited by the BRE. It is a proprietary assessment method, and you should consider this when including it in a policy. BREEAM can be used to assess any non-domestic building, and there are specific methodologies for assessing different buildings: healthcare, retail, commerical, educational, multi-residential, penal etc. BREEAM consists of an Interim Certificate at Design Stage, with a full certificate only issued following the mandatory Post-Construction Review. There are a number of mandatory minimums for each rating band. Once the build or renovation is complete, buildings are rated on a scale of Pass to Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.
There have been no recent studies into the costs of meeting particular BREEAM targets. However, it is safe to say that some effort and/or initiative is required to achieve Very Good, and significant effort and/or initiative is required to move to Excellent. The Outstanding category was introduced in 2008 for truly exemplary buildings only, and is a very challenging target indeed.
At the time of writing (February 2010), NHS-funded buildings are required to achieve a BREEAM rating of Excellent, and schools funded by DCSF a Very Good rating. Click here for a list of buildings requiring BREEAM or Code.