Ban on water-wasteful buildings proposed

Minimum water efficiency requirements are to be set for all new homes, shops and office buildings under proposals announced this week.

The proposed measures are part of the Code for Sustainable Homes, the Government’s scheme aimed at addressing energy and water-related issues through planning rules, and could cut water use by 15-20%, ministers say.

The Government is now consulting on details of the proposals, including the exact level of efficiency that will be required and whether standards should be set for whole buildings or individual appliances such as water-efficient taps and dual-flush toilets.

Angela Smith, Minister for Sustainable Buildings said: “This is an important step in transforming the way we use water in the home and the workplace.

“By installing products such as low flush toilets and water efficient taps in new homes we could reduce household consumption by 15-20 per cent,” she said.

Water use in the canteens and washrooms of new shops and offices – but not water used for industrial purposes and the like – will be subject to the same regulations.

“These are relatively cheap and effective ways to reduce water demand. These regulations will ensure that water efficiency becomes the norm in all new homes and workplaces,” said Angela Smith.

The measures for new homes will be part of a wider drive to cut water use in existing houses and new-build, following the recommendations of the Water Saving Group, said minister for Climate Change Ian Pearson.

“Setting minimum standards for new buildings will not deliver all the savings we need to make, but will provide a strong signal to consumers and to manufacturers of water appliances, fixtures and fittings that they have a role as part of that joined up action, and that we all have a responsibility to find ways of using water wisely,” he said.

The Environment Agency welcomed the proposals as a welcome contribution to the fight against climate change, but pointed out that making existing homes more water-efficient will be where the real challenge will lie.

The EA’s chief executive Barbara Young said: “In the past, building regulations have included minimum standards for energy, but not minimum standards for water efficiency. The consultation on bringing water efficiency into building regulations announced today is crucial to reducing future water use and we look forward to seeing further details.

“But building regulations is only part of the story – the Government also needs to encourage the use of much more water efficient fittings and appliances in buildings,” she said.

Efficient use of energy as well as water is needed if England is not to run out of resources as the Government proceed with its planned housing expansion, she added:

“In many parts of the country – and particularly the south east – the current environmental infrastructure is struggling to cope with the existing level of demand.

“With the Government’s ambition to increase housing supply in England to 200,000 a year by 2016, this package of initiatives is crucial in recognising that careful planning and more sustainable homes are needed to accommodate the proposed number of new houses,” she said.

Details of the consultation on mandatory water efficiency standards for new homes can be found here.

Goska Romanowicz

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