What is the Code for Sustainable Homes

The Code measures the sustainability of a home against nine design categories, rating the ‘whole home’ as a complete package. The design categories are:

  1. Energy and CO2 Emissions
  2. Water
  3. Materials
  4. Surface Water Run-off
  5. Waste
  6. Pollution
  7. Heath and Wellbeing
  8. Management
  9. Ecology

Each category includes a number of environmental issues (see Table 1 in Annex A) which have a potential impact on the environment. The issues can be assessed against a performance target and awarded one or more credits. Performance targets are more demanding than the minimum standard needed to satisfy Building Regulations or other legislation. They represent good or best practice, are technically feasible, and can be delivered by the building industry. More details about how the Code works is set out in Annex A. The Code performance standard is set out in Annex B.

A mark of quality
In this era, with a more environmentally-conscious public, aware of the urgent need to limit their effects on climate change, there is a growing appetite amongst consumers for more sustainable products and services. With greater demand for homes that offer reduced environmental impact, lower running costs and features that enhance health and well-being, there is an increased need for home builders to demonstrate their capacity in sustainable home building, and to market the sustainability of their homes to homebuyers. The Code offers a tool for home builders to demonstrate the sustainability performance of their homes, and to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

A signal for the future
The Code is closely linked to Building Regulations, which are the minimum building standards required by law. Minimum standards for Code compliance have been set above the requirements of Building Regulations. The Code signals the future direction of Building Regulations in relation to carbon emissions from, and energy use in homes, providing greater regulatory certainty for the homebuilding industry.

The sustainability rating system
The Code uses a sustainability rating system – indicated by ‘stars’, to communicate the overall sustainability performance of a home. A home can achieve a sustainability rating from one (*) to six (******) stars depending on the extent to which it has achieved Code standards. One star (*) is the entry level – above the level of the Building Regulations; and six stars (******) is the highest level – reflecting exemplar development in sustainability terms.

Achieving a sustainability rating
The sustainability rating which a home achieves represents its overall performance across the nine Code design categories. Minimum standards exist for a number of categories – these must be achieved to gain a one star (*) sustainability rating. Energy efficiency and water efficiency categories also have minimum standards that must be achieved at every level of the Code, recognising their importance to the sustainability of any home. Apart from these minimum requirements the Code is completely flexible; developers can choose which and how many standards they implement to obtain ‘credits’ under the Code in order to achieve a higher sustainability rating.

The table below shows the nine design categories and the degree of flexibility afforded by each.

Flexibility of the Code
Minimum standards at each level of the Code
Surface water run-off
Minimum standard at Code entry level
Health and wellbeing
No minimum standards


Assessing the sustainability rating
Assessment procedures are based on BRE’s EcoHomes System which depends on a network of specifically trained and accredited independent assessors. Currently BRE and Stroma can offer training and accreditation of Code assessors.

Code assessors can conduct an initial design stage assessment, recommend a sustainability rating, and issue an interim Code certificate. A final Code certificate of compliance is issued after a post-completion check to verify the rating has taken place.

A design stage assessment may only need to be carried out on each specific environmental issue within any development – not every single home. Post-completion checks will be carried out on a sample basis.

Builders whose home designs and completed work are assessed under the Code will receive a certificate showing the overall sustainability rating for the home, and a breakdown of how that rating has been achieved.

From May 2008 homes that are not assessed will have a nil-rated certificate which is produced by the seller of property. Examples of both a Code certificate and a nil rated certificate showing that a home had not been assessed against the Code can be found at Annexes C and D. A nil-rated certificate can be downloaded from the HIP and BRE websites:


The Code for Sustainable Homes: Setting the standard in sustainability for new homes