The Good Homes Alliance led a two-year Vanguard Campaign in order to encourage and support developers and local authorities to adopt enhanced sustainability standards for new homes and to help them respond to Climate Emergency declarations.
During the past year, a number of significant events have further bolstered the need for this campaign, most importantly reports by the Committee on Climate Change, the IPCC Global Warming of 1.5 ºC report, campaigns by Extinction Rebellion, the 'School strike for climate' demonstrations and the recent call to action from Sir David Attenborough.
The outputs for phase 2 of the campaign have been developed in response to feedback from over 140 delegates that attended our events in Cambridge, Exeter and Leeds in during 2018. Activities for 2019 include:
During the campaign we ran a series of regional events around the country (Cambridge, Leeds, Exeter, London, Cardiff) to over 200 public and private-sector developers. The campaign has now come to an end but we continue to host regular events and conferences throughout the year. See our upcoming events below.
Local Authority Vanguard network
- Shared learning
- Standard specifications and SPDs
- Case studies and good practice examples
Research and guidance
- Development of a best practice knowledge base
The need for enhanced performance
In sustainability terms, performance of new homes seemed to be improving up to 2015, due to the widespread adoption of the Code for Sustainable Homes, despite its flaws. However, since the abolition of the Code, it has been difficult to know what standards to adopt for any housing clients wanting to achieve anything above minimum Building Regulation requirements. Furthermore, enhanced standards cannot be adopted as a requirement through the planning process, but can be adopted voluntarily, including on homes built on Council-owned land.
Despite these restrictions, many local authority housing departments and progressive developers are keen to develop housing to better than minimum standards, as this will lead to better health for occupants, help reduce fuel poverty, and create better neighbourhoods and long-term local value. Several have started work on their own version of an enhanced standard, including the Greater London Authority (Zero carbon), Exeter City Council (Passivhaus and Bau Biologie), Cambridge City Council (via their “Cambridge Sustainable Housing Design Guide” published in February 2017), HAB (Happiness, architecture and beauty) and Igloo (igloo footprint). Supporting and encouraging this is a core objective of the Good Homes Alliance.
During 2019, the situation has changed radically, with declarations of a Climate Emergency by many local authorities leading to an increased emphasis on zero carbon homes. The UK Government has also recently stated its ambition that all new homes should meet a Future Homes standard, aiming to halve the energy use of all new buildings by 2030, compared to the current (2018) Building Regulations requirements, which is a significant step towards the net zero target.
Linked to these changes, the UK Green Building Council has launched an Advancing Net Zero campaign and the Chair of the Good Homes Alliance, Lynne Sullivan, is leading a task force for the Green Construction Board to examine the journey that the industry needs to make in order to achieve that target.
The campaign has now finished but if you would like to get involved and support our new Local Authority Vanguard network, please contact Julian Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reed Walk in Exeter, one of Exeter City Council's social housing projects built to Passivhaus standards. (Image credit: Green Building Store)
Examples of good practice
A number of organisations have started the journey towards net zero carbon homes, many of them Good Homes Alliance members and we have recently started a map of zero carbon homes within the UK. The GHA is also involved in the Building for 2050 project for BEIS, led by AECOM and Pollard Thomas Edwards, which aims to understand the demand for low carbon low cost housing, and to assess the capacity and motivation within the housing sector to meet this demand.
In terms of local authorities, leaders include:
- The Greater London Authority, which has set a zero carbon target (with percentage improvement in emissions over building regulations) for all new homes in London and proposes a requirement for energy monitoring post completion. This has been in place since October 2016
- Exeter City Council, which has adopted the Passivhaus and Bau Biologie standards for all new homes built by the Council.
- Glasgow City Council, which has set compliance with the Gold Level of the Scottish Building Regulations from 1st September 2018.
In promoting standards which deliver higher quality, the GHA ran a series of regional events around the country to over 200 public and private-sector developers. The events are based on regional champions and projects from the existing GHA membership, and we used the exemplar case studies to explore the different aspects of higher performance such as health & well-being and ‘net positive’ developments.
The events that took place in 2018 and 2019 were: