Does Smart Home Technology Fit Into The Code for Sustainable Homes?

Lucinda Wood
9th December 2014 in Know How

What is the Code for Sustainable Homes?

The Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) is the national standard for assessing the sustainability of new housing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The code was introduced in 2007 as a voluntary standard, to replace the EcoHomes scheme.

The code seeks to promote higher standards of energy efficiency and to protect the environment through sustainable design, and uses a six star system to rate the overall sustainability performance of a new home against the following 9 categories:

  • Ecology
  • Energy/CO2
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Management
  • Materials
  • Pollution
  • Surface Water Run-off (Flooding & Flood Prevention)
  • Waste
  • Water

Is it compulsory?

Whilst the code is not currently mandatory, the level 3 energy standard is now incorporated into building regulations, and there are some local authorities who include it as part of their planning policy. We had a look at two councils near us in Berkshire to see how the code fits in with planning.

Our office sits within the Wokingham Borough Council area, where just over 13,000 homes will be built between 2006 and 2026. Since last year, all new homes built in the borough have been required to meet Level 4 of the CSH.

Similarly, in West Berkshire, all planning applications for new residential development must include, as a minimum, either a Code for Sustainable Homes report or equivalent pre-assessment estimator showing the likely rating that would be achieved under a formal CSH assessment. The pre-assessment must show that the proposed development will achieve a Code 4 rating. From 2016, residential developments must meet the Code 6 rating. If a proposal does not achieve the required level, there’s a good chance the application could be refused permission.

How can I reach Level 4?

The CSH assessment is carried out at the design stage, prior to construction, so good design is essential for achieving a higher rating.

Homebuilding & Renovating published an online guide which outlines how to get to Level 4, category by category. The Code Level is derived from the total percentage points score — 68 points (not credits) is required for Code Level 4 (to read more about how the points score is calculated, please see the full article here). In the Energy category, which holds the most weight, you can see below some of the suggestions that have been made:

Subcategory Suggestion Maximum Credits Gained
ENE 1 25% improvement in CO2 emissions 4
ENE 2 BFRC glazing 4
ENE 3 Energy display device 2
ENE 4 Rotary washing line 1
ENE 5 A-rated white goods 2
ENE 6 Movement-controlled external lighting 2
ENE 7 Low-carbon tech 1
ENE 8 Cycle store 2
ENE 9 Home office 1
 TOTAL21 Credits

The only mandatory subcategory in the list is ENE 1; CO2 emissions must be 25% lower than the Building Regulations standard to achieve Code Level 4 (L equivalent). According to the Homebuilding article, there’s two ways of achieving this: by installing renewable energy and/or by improving the thermal efficiency of the building.

Use Loxone To Optimise Your Energy Usage

So how can a Smart Home help?

Whilst the suggestions made in the article are all relatively low cost and easily implemented, it is disappointing to see that there is no mention of smart home technology anywhere. As discussed in a previous blog, whilst smart meters do indeed provide an ‘energy display device’, they offer little by way of actually reducing energy use.

Furthermore, a smart home can have a considerable impact on both managing renewable energy and improving thermal efficiency.

Optimise energy consumption

There are various ways to optimise your energy consumption, which include:

  • Managing the electricity produced by your PV panels-  you can use excess electricity produced during the day to charge your electric car or heat your hot water tank.
  • Turning off devices on standby and lowering the heating automatically whenever you go out or to bed.
  • Automating your lighting and installing presence sensors to avoid leaving lights on in rooms you’re not using.

Reduce mains water usage

Reducing water consumption is another key aspect of aligning your home with the code. One way to cut down on mains water usage is to start using rainwater- we certainly have plenty of it in the UK! Smart home technology is ideal for rainwater harvesting – it will monitor water levels inside the tank, thus eliminating the need to regularly remove the cover and manually check. In addition, when water levels are low, or the pump has stopped working, you can receive a text or call to your smartphone to alert you.

Fit for purpose?

In conclusion, it seems that the Code for Sustainable Homes, whilst covering many categories of sustainability individually, hasn’t the flexibility to embrace smart home technology. The code appears, in a way, to be stuck in the past, unable to keep pace with the advancing technology that is being adopted into homes.

Further reading

If you’d like to read more about the Code for Sustainable Homes, we found the following resources useful:

  • Planning Portal – Introduction, guidance, case studies and more.
  • BREEAM – Often used as a standard for non-domestic buildings.
  • Homebuilding & Renovating online- a large collection of articles on the topic of building sustainable homes.

Want to find out more about how a Smart Home can help you create a more efficient home? Why not book in for a free project consultation?