Sustainability and new homes

sunflowers and solar cells

NHBC's unique role in setting standards, providing protection to homebuyers via the Buildmark warranty and reducing risk means that we are at the forefront of the sustainability debate for new homes. Homeowners remain at the heart of this debate, and we are committed to providing confidence in new homes by ensuring that they benefit from safe innovation and proven technologies when meeting the Government's sustainability requirements.

To facilitate this, the NHBC Foundation, NHBC's research body, promotes best practice to help builders, developers and the industry respond to the UK's housing needs, and has recently delivered a programme of practical research targeting the zero carbon and sustainability agendas. The 2008 survey on consumer and builder attitudes to zero carbon and sustainability is the largest survey of its kind to date in the UK.

Copies of all the Foundation's publications can be found at:

Sustainable homes questions and answers:

1. What is the Code for Sustainable Homes?

The Code for Sustainable Homes is a national standard for sustainable design and construction of new homes. The Code measures the sustainability of a new home against nine categories of sustainable design and construction, rating the "whole home" as a complete package. The Code uses a 1 to 6 star rating system to communicate the overall sustainability performance. It sets minimum standards for energy and water use at each level. 

2. Where does the Code for Sustainable Homes apply?
The Code for Sustainable Homes was introduced in 2007.  New social housing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is starting to be built to Code level 3.   The Code for Sustainable Homes has been voluntary for other homes since 2007, and a few "Code level" homes are starting to appear.  In a few areas planners also stipulate that developments should be built to a certain Code level. 

3. What does Code level 3 mean?

Homes built to one of the 6 Code levels should have lower running costs and help reduce your environmental footprint.  A home that achieves Code level 3 should be more energy and water efficient than one built to the latest (2006) Building Regulations standards.

4. Will it make a difference to my new home?

It is challenging to achieve Code level 3, but could be achieved in different ways. 

For example:

5. My new home has a nil-rated sustainable code rating. What is this?

Home Information Packs (HIPS) for new homes required either a Code certificate if the home is being built to a specific Code level, or a nil-rating certificate where the home has been designed to meet the 2006 building regulations.

Since May 2010 HIPs are no longer required by law.

You may also be given an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showing an energy efficiency rating.  Analysis of EPC scores reveals that the UK average across all homes would be band E, whilst homes built to the latest regulations would probably be band B or C, demonstrating the significantly higher efficiency of newer homes.

6. Does the Code only apply to new homes?

NHBC seeks to raise standards in new homes and to protect homeowners, but we all can help use energy more efficiently.  Organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust provide a number of tips and information about simple, small changes we can make, whether in new or existing homes.

7. Smart Meters

Following a consultation exercise undertaken by DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) over the summer, it was announced on 02 December 2009 that 'smart meters' will be installed in all homes in Great Britain by 2020.

8. Interested in finding out more?

To find out more about the Code for Sustainable Homes, and improving energy efficiency in your home, visit the following websites:

Code for sustainable homes