Part of Future Homes- Avoiding unintended consequences

16. Design for people (not standards)

Image alt text

The main push was to deliver to that code standard... it became a bit of a points exercise instead of being about the people who will live in the homes.

The house building industry is preparing for a period of unprecedented change: there are more onerous targets in existing regulations as well as new regulations which came into force in 2022.

Looking forward to 2025 and the Future Homes Standard there is the possibility for regulation of embodied energy and ecological impact. Technical knowledge will need to be acquired, new skills in the design and procurement will be developed and independent expert advice sought. There can be no doubt that considerable time and energy will be focussed on demonstrating compliance and meeting standards but at the heart of what we do we should remember that homes should be designed for the people who will live in them not just for compliance.

In researching this document there has been consistent feedback from building managers and maintenance teams that there is insufficient thought going into efficient running and operation of new homes. Just as when compliance with higher levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes brought many unexpected and sometimes costly outcomes we may find that future homes present a different set of practical challenges ‘in use’.

These challenges are easily overlooked in the process of compliance checks, certification and box-ticking. The creation of a new homes ombudsman may focus minds and improve processes but the real imperative is an ethical and social one: to create healthy, secure and desirable places to live.

Things that can go wrong:

  • Design intentions not delivered;
  • ‘As-built’ home does not meet the predicted performance (a performance gap);
  • Inadequate ventilation possibly leading to overheating, condensation or poor air quality (or all three);
  • Systems deteriorate or stop working over time because they have not been adjusted or maintained.

Future-proofing recommendations:

  • DESIGN: Design elements as a ‘considered whole’ to achieve efficient ventilation, comfort and space;
  • INSTALL: Build carefully to deliver the design as intended;
  • COMMISSION: Test and commission systems accurately and diligently by people using the right equipment;
  • MAINTAIN: Components and services should be accessible and serviceable with clear guidance for the occupier to make best use of their home’s features.

Further Reading

Previous Chapter 15. Zoning System Controls
Next Chapter 17. Space

Explore NHBC Foundation

NHBC Foundation Research

Delivering high-quality research and guidance to help the house-building industry address the challenges of delivering 21st-century new homes

Learn more

Access NHBC Foundation Publications

Access and download NHBC Foundation’s full portfolio of publications and practical guides, covering primary research, research reviews and documents informing the debate

View all publications

Latest NHBC Foundation News

View the latest NHBC Foundation news, articles and Foundation facts showcasing the most recent publications and reporting on progress with new research projects

NHBC Foundation news