Extend EPCs to consider water usage?
Elmhurst have contributed to “Bricks and Water” an exciting policy proposal launched yesterday at a virtual conference. The report was authored by the Westminster Sustainability Forum and Policy Connect , a cross-party think tank who aim to improve people’s lives by influencing policy.
The wide ranging research report, authored by Rob Allen, chaired by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering and with the support of Phillip Dunne MP (Chairman of the Government’s Environmental Audit Committee), aims to improve flood resilience and water availability to our homes. There are six recommendations;
The Government should urgently introduce a fairer, tougher and simpler planning framework supported by building regulations. This will level the playing field to current best industry practice and support all developers, large and small, to deliver the very highest water efficiency and flood resilience standards. To make this happen quickly the Government should introduce a mandatory ‘Bricks and Water’ Sustainability Code.
The new strategic body proposed by the Environment Secretary must be truly independent, have the powers to fully hold the government to account, and provide the leadership on water management to make things happen on the ground. It should face the Housing Ministry as well as the Environment Department.
Water issues need to be addressed at sub-national as well as national level (we’ve called this catchment scale) in order to address the challenges of flooding, water quality and quantity; ensure strategic engagement between housebuilders, water companies and other bodies; and provide strategic advice to democratic decision makers about planning decisions. This could be achieved through the proposed new environmental body.
Water efficiency, reuse and flood resilience needs to be driven up the agenda through mandatory Property Resilience Certificates (based on the BRE Home Quality Mark), and mandatory water efficiency labelling for fixtures and fittings.
Green infrastructure must be the norm for homes and communities, not concrete infrastructure. A national register of significant sustainable drainage systems needs to be developed to inform decisions and prioritise action, and the proposal in the draft National Planning Policy Framework on maintenance responsibility for green infrastructure should be firmed up and included in the ‘Bricks and Water’ Sustainability Code to ensure it becomes embedded quickly.
Post-CAP incentives being developed by DEFRA should prioritise the management of water as a public good, to ensure up-stream action in river catchments is taken to reduce flooding and improve water quality.
Elmhurst were keen to explain the success of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), and the great resource of competent, accredited assessors that produce them. We were therefore delighted that the report calls a Performance Resilience Certificate which, the group recommends, should be mandated and delivered alongside an EPC.
The report states “One solution to solve this at the householder level would be to follow the example of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which has been very successful in raising the awareness of energy performance among buyers, and driving action for example through the recent requirement for landlords to take action to improve the energy efficiency of rental homes. We propose builders and householders should be required in law to provide a ‘Property Resilience Certificate’ (PRC) before they can sell or rent the property.”
Graham Brogden, Chair of DEFRA said “The public needs to have a clearer idea of the quality and risks associated with the home that they are about to buy. A new national rating such as the Property Resilience Certificate will help inform the public, and this would drive the market for higher rated homes. A PRC would also help the insurance sector understand the impact of natural disasters like flooding, which could also benefit the premium holder.”
The report authors added “If the EPC and the PRC were brought together ‘thermal comfort’ could also be rated, which would cover energy efficiency and overheating issues of the house to the potential buyer.” A proposal that the panel said had been “well received”.
Elmhurst’s Managing Director, Martyn Reed, who inputted directly to the research, welcomed the report and the possibility to extend the scope of an energy assessment to cover other aspects of sustainability: “Whilst nobody would ever want to detract from the importance of energy efficiency, it was great to see the authors acknowledged the success of EPCs and the infrastructure we have to create them. We will continue to look for opportunities for members to move into related areas of assessment that make best use of their skills and their time on site”
Elmhurst will continue to work with Policy Connect to maintain momentum that they have created and to ensure that any resultant legislation is practical and deliverable.
Policy Connect Website: https://www.policyconnect.org.uk/
To read the full report by Policy Connect click here