Code for Sustainable Homes Raises the Standards

The British government is keen to enhance its green credentials and has recently set stretching targets for CO2 emissions reduction. Within this plan the government has introduced the Code for Sustainable Homes which, among other issues, has important implications on the plumbing and heating industry in the UK, both for new build projects and re-developments of existing housing stock.

According to the Code for Sustainable Homes, a new property will be scored against a carbon emissions target. The property has to show that once built the real emissions from it would be equal to or below this target. This is the currently enforced procedure, based on Part L1A of the building regulations.

Part L1A was set out in 2005, calling for a reduction of 20% in carbon emissions in new buildings. However the Code defines six levels of reduction in carbon emissions with level one demanding 10% up to level six which demands ‘Zero Carbon’ dwellings. The government has set a target that by 2016 all new homes will have to comply with level five, which states 100% reduction in emissions.

A points system is used to determine each property’s score. 57 points are sufficient for level three, while 90 points are required to meet level six standards. To work out the score, each component in the property is evaluated on its energy efficiency and carbon emissions performance.

It is fair to say that water heating systems currently available in the UK can meet the standard for medium levels within the Code. Still there is work to be done to make the heating systems efficient enough to meet the requirements for the top most levels, such as levels five and six.

Using sustainable energy technologies is one of the most effective ways of improving the score of the dwelling unit. Take for example a solar water heating system that can generate hot water from the sun with virtually no carbon emission at all. As a backup system (for short and cold winter days), a gas boiler or an electrical immersion heater set inside a well insulated water tank can be used.

Experts argue that the Code should be applied not only to new buildings but also to retrofit projects. Installing an energy efficient boiler or a hot water tank would benefit not only the environment, but also the home owners through reduced heating bills. A high efficiency boiler (such as an A rated condensing boiler) converts more than 90% of the input energy into usable energy, improving on previous boilers by around 30%. Similarly, a well insulated hot water cylinder will reduce heat loss during the night to near zero levels, compared with poorly insulated old cylinders.

It is likely that the Code for Sustainable Homes will influence the building regulations that are planned to be launched in 2010. As such, it is crucial that the Code is carefully worked out and that the UK heating industry is fully prepared for it well in advance to ensure a successful roll out.

Engineering and technological capabilities in the UK are high, giving the government comfort in the ability of the sector to roll out the high efficiency technologies. What’s more, the new technologies become ever more attractive to the public as prices drop while performance levels improve.

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