The Future of UK Housing

Written by coreArchitect

Topics: Housing

With Climate Change, Sustainability and Biodiversity now fully on the Built Environment Agenda, how are Local Authorities and Designers to deal with the environmental requirements for now and the future?

The Building Research Establishment [BRE] developed their Environmental Assessment Method [BREEAM] in order to assess the environmental performance for any type of building; whether new or existing.

There are several versions of BREEAM for several building types, descriptions can be found at . The Code for Sustainable Homes [CfSH], previously BREEAM Ecohomes, is used hand-in-hand with Government Planning  Policies and Building Regulations Approved Documents. This is so that we can all design better performing environmentally balanced structures.

But what does this mean for our Clients future projects and the resulting architecture vernacular?


Many Commercial Clients, but not all, are aware as to what is expected of them. This is perhaps due to many businesses having to deal with the environment issues associated with the way they have to run their businesses or the products and services they produce or provide.

Domestic Residential Clients, in general, find it harder to accept or understand these requirements along with the resulting additional expenses now required for Planning Applications & Building Regulations Submissions; not just in materials costs but in the associated application and professional fees.

This is quite understandable as they are not regularly involved with the construction industry and the consequences that are involved in simple decisions such as choices for Boilers or Insulation materials.

Guides & Statutes

Planning Policy guidelines are regularly updated by the Government, details can be found on the Planning Portal, and websites of individual Local Authorities. On October1st this year, several revised Building Regulations came into effect, they included Part F: Ventilation, Part J: Combustion Appliances & Fuel Storage and Part L: Conservation of Fuel & Power New Dwellings, Existing Dwellings, New Buildings other than Dwellings,  Existing Buildings other than Dwellings;  any new building proposals need to adhere to this new legislation.

However, Planning also addresses the requirements of other reference documentation: Planning Reform, Policy Documents, Legislation and Good Practice Guidance. One such document is the Code for Sustainable Homes [The Code] it as been growing momentum and it will soon become very onerous [in an acceptable way] for Clients and their Designers of new build construction.

We are all perhaps aware of today’s environmental problems and predictions for the future. Global campaigns and movements such as 10:10 and 2020 are hoping to change the way we deal with development, growth and the environment. The Code has been established to do this at grass  roots level, before construction to maximum effect. It does this in a holistic, all encompassing way, by grading every aspect of a project, giving points for various configurations; the more environmental the more points.

What is the Code for Sustainable Homes

The Code for Sustainable Homes Logo

The Code for Sustainable Homes

Briefly, drawings, notes and specifications for the proposals are assessed and there are 100 points to be awarded in the assessment; as a total percentage of nine design categories, as follows:

  1. Energy and CO2 Emissions
  2. Pollution
  3. Water
  4. Health and Well-being
  5. Materials
  6. Management
  7. Surface Water Run-off
  8. Ecology
  9. Waste

Without getting too much into how The Code operates these nine categories are divided into two groups:

  • Mandatory – Energy and Water – certain points are required for each Level
  • Other – Everything else – these points raise the overall score

Where the minimum requirements under Building Regulations increase, highlighted in updated documents, so do the requirements under The Code. From May 1st 2008 Code Level 3 [there are six levels] has been used as a minimum standard. Codes below Level 3 are no longer suitable as they do not go far enough in terms of sustainability. With recent changes in Building Regulations the minimum code has increased again to Code Level 4.

At Code Level 4 designers have to work hard and will more than likely be required to use renewables as part of their design, i.e. generating your own power and/or water on site by way of solar, wind, water recycling, etc.

However, this is just the start; by 2013 Local Authorities will be negotiating with Code Level 5 against the sustainability credentials of planning applicants developments. This will result in a 100% improvement on the 2006 Part L Building Regulations minimum standards; by 2016 Local Authorities will be negotiating with Code Level 6!

Code Level 6 is approximately a 144% increase on the 2006 Part L minimum standards but in real terms will result in “Zero Carbon”, that is zero carbon energy production from domestic cooking, washing, appliance use, heating, cooling & ventilation [see Energy Saving Trust].

These are big steps, but necessary ones to halt carbon omissions spiralling out of control.

Contemporary Vernacular

The Code will also make far reaching changes to vernacular architecture both locally and nationally.

All competent architects have had a grip on these issues for some time and have attempted to educate their Clients in what is required and what should be provided, unfortunately these specific elements have been costly and usually become watered down as projects progress. Realistically implementation can only truly come from Government legislation, such is The Code, and it will be used to help produce our sustainable homes for the this century.

Changes in insulation values, materials usage, energy consumption and renewables production will all have effect on the homes we create. The heavily sort period Georgian, Victorian & Edwardian homes can be recreated reasonably well using Codes 3 & 4, this will become harder and virtually impossible using Codes 5 & 6. Contemporary architecture will therefore move to the forefront due to its ability to adapt with modern materials and building practices.

Why Contemporary?

Our Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas will need to be addressed with this change in direction and legislation may need to be revised. This should not be seen as a bad thing, as structures falling into these categories will become more coveted and so they will become more protected. It will mean however, that new houses will not be built in the traditional styles; some would say these pastiche styles have been overused by the high volume house builders in the last 20 – 30 years.

New extensions will be more contemporary too and they will need to be designed in such a way as to compliment the older structures they extend or alter; both in materials and layout.

The main reasons for existing buildings not coming up to scratch are the fundamental design shapes. Traditional bay windows and pitched roofs create a number of problems that are harder to detail and more expensive to resolve in order to satisfy requirements under energy and material conservation.

Typical Bay-windowed Street Terrace

Typical Bay-windowed Street Terrace

For want of a better analogy the square box or cube functions better under The Code. There are many examples of this linear style of architecture around the world, some interesting extracts from Arch Daily can be seen below, which do you like?

Whilst the above are in different countries with differing climates and weather patterns the resultant factor of Environmental Design Codes is that this will become the architectural language of UK housing stock in this century and it will become the excepted norm. So let’s embrace these building designs, examine the created spaces, chosen materials and evaluate their successes. We shall then be able to design our own architectural language that will evolve into our Listed Buildings of the Future.

Leave a Comment Here's Your Chance to Be Heard!