As the provision of new homes across the UK continues to grow (MHCLG, 2020), it is essential that these homes meet adequate standards and building quality does not suffer. The announcement of a New Homes Ombudsman, by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP, will assist in the implementation of great quality homes of the highest standards as well as providing homes that are ‘sustainable and fit for the future’ (MHCLG, 2020, 4).
What does this mean for the environmental performance of new builds?
Substandard work can be detrimental to the environmental performance of a new home (see the horror story at the end of this blog). Ill-fitting windows threaten condensation and potential damp. Inadequate insulation may lead to inefficient heating and increased fuel costs. A decline in building quality is likely to have future implications on the wellbeing of new homeowners and may impact them financially. Undoubtedly, things can go wrong so it is essential that new homeowners are able to hold those responsible for failings. It is hoped that the introduction of an independent Ombudsman into legislation will ensure that homeowners can receive compensation for poor quality building.
By getting things ‘right the first time’ (MHCLG, 2019, 7), it is probable that future replacements or repairs to buildings will be limited. This, in turn, can prevent the unnecessary wastage of building materials, reduce excess energy and emissions from building work as well as avoiding future costs. It is essential that housebuilders mitigate their environmental impact. The sustainability of the housing sector is likely to improve if homes are built to last. It will limit the need for future rebuilding or the retrofitting of existing homes.
It is proposed in the consultation documents that the New Ombudsman will ‘promote positive behaviour in the new build industry’ (MHCLG, 2019, 31). Through receiving feedback and learning from mistakes, it is hoped that the standards will continue to be raised across the sector. Although it is less clear what these standards may be, particularly for sustainable practices, it provides the opportunity to ban those that do not meet the standards from developing or building again. It is hoped this will prevent future problems within the industry.
Despite mentioning the desire for sustainable homes, it is less evident which environmental standards are going to be incorporated into the legislation. A brief mention of energy efficiency indicates the acknowledgement of environmental performance however, the exact details are less obvious. For example, will developers need to deliver EPC A-rated properties? It is important that sustainable practices are built into (pardon the pun) the Code of Practice and that the New Homes Ombudsman continue to hold those responsible for not effectively applying the standards. Definitive policies on environmental performance and sustainable practices should be explicitly stated within the legislation.
The need for the New Homes Ombudsman
As well as a ban on poor developers being allowed to build again, we would hope that there would be sanctions to enable occupiers to claim against builders when there is poor energy performance. A contact of ours (an energy specialist) pursued such a claim when he moved into a brand new house. The full story will be in another blog but key details:
- Missing insulation in the rafters
- Poorly applied insulation elsewhere
- Rolls of insulation still in packs in the loft
- Cracked front door
- No water in heating system
- Solar thermal cylinder was empty
- No fluid in solar thermal system
- Solar thermal pump needed replacing
- Plus a catalogue of non-energy related failings
After a lengthy battle with the developers, he eventually got compensated for his high bills (they reduced to £500 per year instead of £1,200 when he first moved in) and the builder had to do all the rectification work at their cost.
If you want to satisfy yourself that the homes you build are good quality and energy efficient please take a look at our Post-Occupancy Evaluation service.
For more information on the consultation please visit:
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (2019) Redress for Purchasers of New Build Homes and the New Homes Ombudsman. A Technical Consultation. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/812038/Redress_for_Purchasers_of_New_Build_Homes_and_the_New_Homes_Ombudsman_.pdf
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (2020) Redress for Purchasers of New Build Homes and the New Homes Ombudsman. Summary of responses to the consultation and the Government’s response. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/867567/New_Homes_Ombudsman_Consultation_Response.pdf