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The Last Stand of Ecohomes

We keep hearing about the Government’s targets for cutting emission rates from our houses, and even though we’re aiming to build dwellings to a zero carbon standard in just four years time, this isn’t going to be enough – we need to ramp up the energy efficiency of our current homes.

This all goes back to 2001 when Ecohomes was launched in the UK. It’s a credit based scheme which started life as an additional assessment to building regs which covered new builds, extensions and major refurbishments – but only where the local authority requested it.

In 2008, Ecohomes was replaced on new build developments by the Code for Sustainable Homes. Similarly to Ecohomes, this is also an assessment calculated on credits, and is still a scheme which only some local authorities request, but it is specifically designed for new buildings.

Meanwhile, in the commercial sector, BREEAM has been happily plodding along on an international podium. It’s yet another credit based scheme which is not mandatory, but frequently asked for as an additional planning system.

The BREEAM and Ecohomes worlds have now come together – BRE say the Domestic Refurbishment scheme will “guide refurbishment designs by indentifying the sustainability issues that should be taken into account, demonstrate environmental credentials to clients, and to funding and planning authorities, help tackle fuel poverty, reduce risks from flooding, fire and security issues and support initiatives to enhance the health and wellbeing of occupants.”

For those who’ve gone through the Ecohomes process before, you may think this description pretty much sums up Ecohomes… so what’s the difference between the old and the new, and why change it?

All will be revealed on June 11th when BRE publish the first BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment manual. No details about the contents are known yet, but it’s safe to say the assessment process will be similar to the way BREEAM and CSH currently work, and – as it’s BREEAM – the credits will be in line with international standards.

Also, as the name would suggest, we expect Domestic Refurbishment to be written with existing buildings in mind, whereas Ecohomes is most definitely a one-size-fits-all manual. Ecohomes will be retired for new refurbishments on July 2nd when the new BREEAM category goes live… giving our technical team just three weeks to get fluent with the requirements. Good job you love a challenge!

If you’re already working to an Ecohomes standard then you can carry on unaffected, although your final documents are likely to have a footnote confirming the scheme has gone the way of the dodo – probably using slightly more official wording. You’re not able to register any new sites under Ecohomes (this block came into force on April 6th).

You may have also heard rumours that CSH will be getting similar treatment in the future. All we can say on that for the moment is that these are just rumours, there’s nothing official released yet, and we’ll keep you updated as soon as we hear anything.

Jon Ponting

Author: Jon Ponting

This article was published by Jon Ponting on 03.05.2012.