It’s here! The long awaited ‘Bonfield Review’ has been issued. The framework sets out 27 recommendations covering consumer protection, advice and guidance, quality and standards, skills and training, compliance and enforcement, insulation and fabric, home energy technologies, smart meters and application in social housing. As part of the initial stage of planning, the Review Team invites feedback on the review recommendations and related proposals for action. Feedback can be sent to until 31 January 2017. In the next stage, industry will develop detailed plans to implement the vision set out in the report.

Meanwhile the government has sold the Green Deal Finance Company’s (GDFC) assets and remaining loan book in a takeover worth about £40m – a move that will lead to the new owners relaunching the business under a different name, or perhaps just asset stripping.

Local authorities to take the lead in sustainable housing

Latest figures from Barbour ABI show housebuilding was the leading sector in construction for 2016, with a total value of contracts at £23.6 billion, a year-on-year increase of 11 per cent. How the industry continues to meet housing demand, whilst maintaining energy efficiency in our homes is important.

The Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into capacity in the home building industry heard evidence on 16 January from Mark Farmer, Author of The Farmer Review, Philip Callan, Research Associate, ResPublica, and Michael Ball, Professor of Urban and Property Economics, Henley Business School, University of Reading. This gives a useful overview of the housing market explaining the key issues. It is well worth anyone new to the industry spending two hours watching the video.

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) is calling for cities and local authorities to have more powers when it comes to sustainable building. A green paper from the UK-GBC examines the role of local authorities in delivering sustainable homes. It takes a look at their current capabilities under existing powers, suggesting by requiring higher building standards on their own land, local authorities can lead by example.

Landowners have called on the government to take the shortage of rural houses into consideration. The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers, and rural businesses, said it was imperative the government did not forget the needs of rural communities. Meanwhile Fourteen sites across England have been proposed for garden villages. The villages could provide 48,000 homes. Larger garden towns in Buckinghamshire, Somerset and the Essex-Hertfordshire border have also been approved.

Another aid is the announcement that housing providers can now apply for a chunk of the government’s £7bn affordable housing fund. This has been unlocked as part of the government’s incentive to get more housing built, additionally the government has confirmed an expansion of the variety of homes that can be delivered under its programme.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published its response to their RHI consultation – The Renewable Heat Incentive: A Reformed Scheme. With changes to be implemented in the spring this year, the document sets out available budget up to 2020/21 and reforms for the market to transition towards being sustainable without Government support in future.

Local authorities are also being given a funding boost to tackle second homeownership. A new annual fund has been launched to help almost 150 councils to tackle the problem of high levels of second homeownership in their communities. One third of the £60 million fund will be allocated directly to local authorities in the South West, the most popular region for second homes in England.

Innovation, Wellbeing and Regeneration

The UK-GBC has launched its first Innovation Lab. A major step forward in enabling the development of innovative and highly sustainable solutions for the built environment. Organisations will work on common challenges collaboratively. UK-GBC will work alongside partners Canary Wharf Group, Land Securities and Marks & Spencer to identify and address the systematic challenges that businesses face in the built environment sector.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UKGBC provides her predictions for 2017. Starting with the big issue, which she names as the link between good sustainable design and the health and wellbeing of people using the buildings. AECOM have called for organisations to prioritise employee wellness, saying  “Toxic” workplaces are jeopardising employee wellbeing, leading to poor productivity. To find out more about the role of Health and Wellbeing in design impacts on product specification, see our research.

With Ecobuild just around the corner the theme for the show is regeneration, with the exhibition centre being transformed into an immersive city, with a main street, distinct destinations and special feature attractions.

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