Posted by: Adam Roake | March 29, 2010


The HCA has published a proposed Design and Sustainability Standards consultation on its website. Their aim is to bring the various different standards adopted by EP and HC up to date and into “a unified set of core housing standards for the HCA as national housing and regeneration agency“. However, their approach has been “to use the tried and tested tools that we already have, not create new ones“. The proposed unified document has headings comfortingly similar to the current National Affordable Housing Programme (NAHP) Core Standards and Housing Quality Indicators and covers much the same ground. So the existing three Core Standards headings and measurement systems (Internal Environment – measured against HQI; Sustainability – measured against CfSH; and External Environment – measured against Building For Life) are lifted wholesale and placed in the proposals.

However the levels required in each case are considerably higher. For example the proposed minimum overall space standards table looks like this:

A comparison with the old minima looks like this:


Overall this represents about a 12% increase in gross internal floor area.

In a similar vein, the Sustainability standard required increases from CfSH level 3 to level 4 and the Building For Life requirement rises from 12 to 14 out of 20. It would be difficult to argue that driving up the standards of housing, and in particular publicly funded housing, is not a good thing but I’m sure there will be a lot of gnashing of teeth from housebuilders and Housing Associations pointing out the additional cost these proposals will incur. The Supporting Evidence Base (page 6) for the proposals shows that the proposals would add £8,000 per unit compared to the cost of meeting the current NAHP standards and £9,895 per unit compared to the cost of meeting 2010 Building regulations (i.e. assuming CfSH level 3 as a requirement, which it will be from October 2010). However the document goes on to point out that capital costs are only a small element of lifetime costs and so, “The savings obtained in regard to HCA funded homes moving from Code 3 to Code 4 and the savings obtained over the life of the home as a result of a reduction in energy costs should not be underestimated” (page 16). The document also notes that, “The mandatory application of Building for Life is retained given the perceived insignificant cost differential of attaining 14 criteria, (rather than 12 or 10 as currently applies for HCA grant funded homes), from an optional palette of 20 criteria” (page 9).  Given the HCA seems determined at the top at least to drive up standards, it seems unlikely that consultation response on the basis that the cost is too high will result in any change to the proposals – it seems reasonable to assume tha these standards will be adopted in more or less their current form.

Of particular interest, in the light of the recent controversy over Building For Life and the Kickstart programme, is the hike in required BFL score and the clear intention in the documentation to get more serious about enforcing it.  Of course you could cynically say that HCA will continue to accept their partner’s self-certified BFL scores, which as you can imagine, currently always meet the standard. But there would appear to be recognition that using BFL properly will drive up the quality of neighbourhoods and homes without adding to their cost and the advice to use an accredited assessor to validate the score in an application for grant is clear.

I don’t see that it is realistic to expect the HCA to adopt much less than the standards they are currently proposing in this consultation. So any sensible house builder, who includes affordable housing in their output, should consider carefully how they will incorporate these increased standards into any schemes they are looking at now and how a Building For Life assessment from an independent accredited assessor might work to their advantage. As always, early adoption will give a competitive edge.



  1. […] This newsroom post from CLG caught my eye today. It seems you can now ignore my previous posts on the HCA draft new Core Standards, which have now gone on the bonfire along with CABE and any […]

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