Code for Sustainable Homes

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The Code for Sustainable Homes is an environmental assessment method for rating and certifying the performance of new homes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is a national standard for use in the design and construction of new homes with a view to encouraging continuous improvement in sustainable home building.


The Code was officially launched in December 2006, and was introduced as a voluntary standard in England in 2007. It complements the system of Energy Performance Certificates for new homes introduced in 2008 under the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and builds on the most recent changes to Building Regulations in England and Wales.

The Government-owned scheme is a successor to the BRE EcoHomes scheme first used in 2000. BRE manages and develops the technical contents of the Code standard for and on behalf of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).


The Code works by awarding new homes a rating from Level 1 to Level 6, based on their performance against 9 sustainability criteria which are combined to assess the overall environmental impact. Level 1 is entry level above building regulations, and Level six is the highest, reflecting exemplary developments in terms of sustainability.

The sustainability criteria by which new homes are measured are:

  • Energy and CO2 Emissions – Operational Energy and resulting emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (different minimum standards that must be met at each level of the Code)
  • Water – Internal and external water saving measures specified (minimum standards that must be met at each level of the Code).
  • Materials – The sourcing and environmental impact of materials used to build the home (minimum standards present).
  • Surface Water Run-off – Management of surface water run-off from the development and flood risk (minimum standards present).
  • Waste – Storage for recyclable waste and compost, and care taken to reduce, reuse and recycle construction materials (minimum standards present).
  • Pollution – The use of insulation materials and heating systems that do not add to global warming.
  • Health and Well-Being – Provision of good daylight quality, sound insulation, private space, accessibility, and adaptability(minimum standards present for Code Level 6 only).
  • Management – A Home User Guide, designing in security, and reducing the impact of construction.
  • Ecology – Protection and enhancement of the ecology of the area and efficient use of building land.


The Code is a 6 level rating system with credits in a broad range of categories from water use to occupant health. There are simple and inexpensive methods of gaining credits, like specifying compost and recycling bins, and costly methods such as installing solar photovoltaics.

Currently, compliance with higher levels of the Code is voluntary, with a long-term view for step-change increases. However, landowners and agents are already selling sites with stipulations to build at a certain Code level.

The extra-over cost of building to Code Level 3 is valued around £2000-3000. Additionally the Code assessment costs around £2000 for a small project. The total cost is typically under 5% of a standard build.[1]

Code levels pertaining to energy require a Dwelling Emission Rate (DER) a certain percentage higher than the Target Emission Rate (TER) as set in Part L1A of the Building Regulations. The October 2010 version of the Code saw Part L 2010 TER standards rise equivalent to Code level 3. Since this change Code level 4 requires 25% DER improvement over Part L1A 2010 TER standards and code level 5 requires a 100% improvement i.e. thermally twice as efficient. It is also anticipated that the Building Regulations as well as the minimum mandatory Code level will continue to improve until the 2016 target of 'net zero CO2 emissions' is met. Guidance is also available via the Code's simply explained published document to clarify the technical requirements.


The scheme was welcomed by the WWF for putting zero carbon development at the top of the industry agenda,[2] and by the Association for Environment Conscious Building for including 'whole house’ carbon emissions.[3] Despite these positive reactions, even a zero carbon building would only achieve Level 1 of the Code unless further measures are taken to comply with other requirements.[4][5] Other reactions were generally welcoming, but with some reservations.[6]

Views of the scheme were not always so positive; early drafts were heavily criticised by industry commentators, both for being unnecessary (due to it being apparently modelled on the existing EcoHomes scheme) and due to its contents.[7] In March 2011 the WWF representative on the Steering Group resigned "in despair" due to the failure of government to accept the Steering Group's advice and recommendations.[8] The Construction Products Association criticised the original proposals as being confusing.[9] The Sustainable Development Commission is keen that the standard is extended to cover existing homes, and covers this and other recommendations in its report 'Stock Take'.[10]

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