Press Releases

What future for UK housing building targets under the Code for Sustainable Homes? – University of Reading

Release Date : 11 August 2009

Research into the need for a Code for Sustainable House Builders, not just homes

Developing a better understanding of the conditions under which environmental regulation impacts on innovation in, and the sustainable profitability of, the housing sector is the aim of a new research project undertaken by the Innovation Construction Research Centre at the University of Reading.

Funded under the UK Innovation Research Centre's Innovation Research Initiative, the research will concentrate on the impact of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH), which was introduced by Government to drive a step-change in sustainable home building practice.

The CfSH sets out a range of standards for new house building, including energy, carbon dioxide emissions, water, materials, surface water run-off, waste, pollution, health and well-being, management and ecology, and has an overarching target that all new homes will be zero carbon or attain CfSH Level 6 compliance by 2016. Initial data, however, suggests that a Level 6 compliant average three bedroom house will push up the cost by at least an extra £30,000.

Professor Martin Sexton of the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading said: "We urgently need to improve the environmental performance of our new homes. However, the Government's tool to achieve this, the CfSH, appears to be expecting the housing sector to deliver its sustainability policy without providing the necessary buttressing of complementary regulations to support and incentivise the whole-scale change required from the housing sector.

"While the CfSH as a statement of outcomes is desirable and must be pursued in one form or another, for the UK is to achieve its legally biding CO2 emissions targets, its current impact appears to be creating a negative cycle of stimulus and response in the house building market. If government and local authorities continue to extract greater amounts of value from housing developments, then more and more potential developments could become economically unviable, and fewer homes built at a time when the housing sector is being asked to provide three million new homes by 2020.

"Our research will generate new insights into how the CfSH will impact on the ability of housing developers to radically innovate. We will examine how the CfSH will shape the industrial structure of the housing sector and the determinants of competition within it, and determine whether the impact of the CfSH on innovation can be meaningfully and efficiently measured. We aim to conclude by advising on how the CfSH could be radically improved to better create the enabling conditions for house builders to enhance the environmental performance of homes whilst understanding and accommodating the need for the sector to generate sustainable profit streams"


Further information from Alex Brannen, Media Relations Manager on 0118 378 7388.

Notes to editors:

The Home Builders Federation estimates that the cost of the proposed Community Infrastructure Level, Zero Carbon and Affordable Homes is likely to reach around £3 million a hectare - roughly the average value of residential development land outside London in 2007.

The CfSH's performance requirements represent a significant design and production challenge for housing developers. For example, the current EcoHomes performance criteria equates to approximately CfSH Level 3 and, to meet Code Level 6, whole new, radical volumetric modern methods of construction will be needed to meet air tightness requirements. The radical, system wide innovation goal of the Code is explicit, with the zero-carbon target bringing "... about wider innovation in the house building industry too - transforming design, improving quality and changing the house building process through, for example, modern methods of construction" (DCLG, 2008b: 16).

New build housing is a major part of the construction sector, consistently producing around 25% of the new build sector output. Housing accounts for around 30% of all energy consumed in the UK and is responsible for 27% of all carbon emissions.

The impact of environmental regulation on innovation in the housing sector: the case of the Code for Sustainable Homes (RES-598-25-0047)

Principal Investigator: Professor Martin Sexton, University of Reading

The exploratory project is being led by Innovation Construction Research Centre, University of Reading (PI - Prof. Martin Sexton; CI - Prof. Stuart Green) in collaboration with the Salford Centre for Research and Innovation in the Built Environment (CI - Mr Carl Abbott). The lead industrial partner is the National House-builders Council (Rod Maceachrane). The project duration is 1st October 2009 to 31st March 2010.

The FEC funding is £49,155.35. The grant is co-funded between Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB)..

ESRC - Press contact - Saskia Walcott (Tel: 01793 413149, email:

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at



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