Government adds detail to exemption plans for small house-building sites

small siteThe Government has released details of its plans to make house-building developments on small sites exempt from certain carbon emission requirements, instead allowing carbon savings to be made off site.

According to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Allowable Solutions strategy will enable house-builders to offset any residual carbon emissions from new homes against carbon savings made on or off-site, in order to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

Following a consultation of how the scheme will be implemented, DCLG has announced that the proposed carbon exemptions will be based on site size, with developments of ten units or fewer to be eligible. It has also said that floor space will be taken into account, with the threshold set at 1,000m2. These two conditions are intended to allow compliance to be checked simply, as well as make it easier to roll out the scheme nationally.

Almost half of the original consultation’s responses were in support of these thresholds, with 47% supporting an exemption targeted at site size. This was particularly evident among the builder / development category of respondents, with 59% of those taking part in the consultation agreeing with this stipulation.

This therefore means that the size of house-builder will not be a consideration in an attempt to create a level playing field for developers of varying sizes, as well as reduce the financial burden of developing small sites. To ensure continued fairness, the Government also plans to push through legislation, which would block larger sites being divided into smaller developments eligible for exemption.

This action has gained approval from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), which says the Government’s decision to exempt small sites from off-site carbon mitigation requirements will help small scale house-builders build more homes.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said:

“There can be little doubt that if we are to begin to build the number of new homes we need, then we desperately need to see a reinvigorated SME house-building sector and the use of more small sites for the delivery of new housing.

“SME house-builders are committed to building to the highest standards, not least because they typically compete based on the quality of the homes they build. Yet, for smaller builders building out small-scale sites, the move to the zero carbon standard presents particular challenges. The limitations of small sites tend to reduce options for on-site low carbon technologies, and the more complex, bespoke designs typical of smaller developments make hitting building fabric efficiency targets much harder.”

“An exemption from the off-site, or ?Allowable Solutions’, element of the zero carbon standard will have no impact on the energy performance of new homes – what it will do is ease the impact of the policy on the deliverability of small sites. As such, this is a fair and proportionate measure and we very much hope it will be supported and implemented by the next Government, regardless of which party or parties take power.”

However, the responses to the Government’s consultation on the matter did reveal some criticisms of the new strategy. Some respondents claimed that there is no effective way of showing that it will benefit smaller house-builders, with the real issue being small site availability.

Concerns were also raised that the exemption could create two tier Building Regulations, leading to two standards of housing