The future of sustainable housing in the UK – Ed Garrod speaks at RCN Breakfast Event at RICS
The Residential Construction Network held a breakfast debate on the tension between sustainability standards and the need to meet housing demands, set against the imminent demise of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Hosted at RICS in London the invited panel of speakers brought together Edward Garrod – Principal at building services engineers and sustainability practice Elementa Consulting, Clare Murray – Head of Sustainability at architects Levitt Bernstein, and Jonathan Hines – Director at architects Architype and co-founder of developer Archihaus.
Clare Murray argued for performance driven standards as we move into a world without the Code for Sustainable Homes. She explained that once the Code is retired the planning system in England will be limited to the narrow remit of the Building Regulations, losing many of the aspects addressed in the Code. Taking up the theme of performance, Jonathan Hines promoted the PassivHaus standard as a candidate to replace the Code – delivering real energy savings and better levels of comfort for residents. He presented Archihaus’ new development of 120 PassivHaus dwellings in Herefordshire as a template for high performance suburban and rural housing that balanced the needs of existing communities and local ecology. Edward Garrod took a step back to look at the underlying issues in the UK housing industry where a fundamental mismatch of supply and demand makes selling sustainability – amongst competing priorities – a real challenge. He felt it is highly unlikely that market signals are strong enough to fill the gap left by the death of the Code – especially as we continue to undersell the real, tangible benefits of sustainable design to residents. But if we are to ‘go for good’ with a voluntary standard as the BRE proposes then he believed it should prioritise residents over planners and ‘aim high’ – taking on best practice from initiatives like the Living Building Challenge and the EcoDistricts framework for sustainable neighbourhoods.
In a lively follow-up debate consensus emerged that to achieve sustainability goals and meet the housing need will require long-term structural changes in regulation, land use planning and technology, the emergence of new business models for development and better engagement with the needs of consumers and communities.
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