Revised Topic Definition And Objectives Construction Essay

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My original proposal focused on which modern methods of construction were best suited to Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH) level three. This title area was very broad as I was looking into a number of factors including; programme, cost and buildability. In hindsight, I would be able to write a paper on each aspect, which is why I decided to refocus mainly on cost and what affect this will have on meeting the code within the social housing sector.

Also, as we have been building to code three and even four confidently for quite some time, I have decided to concentrate on level six and the issues we're faced with in achieving the zero carbon target by 2015.

I am employed as a surveyor for Willmott Dixon Housing (WDH), a main contractor based in the South East of England. As WDH is one of the largest contractors within the social housing sector, CfSH is of immediate relevance to my work.

Aim, Objective and Hypothesis


To assess CfSH level six requirements and the cost effect of its implementation on the social housing main contractor.


Complete a detailed cost analysis for the implementation of CfSH level six against levels three, four and five

Assess the impact that CfSH level six will have on the UK social housing sector.

Discuss whether the proposed 2015 carbon neutral deadline is attainable.

Discuss what needs to be done in order to ensure that this is achieved.

Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages that the CfSH level six has within the social housing sector.


It is expected that there will be a significant increase in the cost of building a CfSH level six house compared to current code level three regulations.

It is anticipated that there will be major difficulties in providing CfSH level six homes at affordable costs within the timescales allowed.

Work carried out to date

The first step in commencing work towards my dissertation was to be allocated my dissertation supervisor. In week one it was confirmed that my supervisor was to be Mr Peter Edward Tubberdy.

We have met every three weeks to discuss my progress and findings. It is important the times and dates were stuck to in order to progress with my dissertation, as they were for my benefit, in order to channel my thoughts. Peter has offered great advice on areas to explore, which has helped channel my research. It also gave me deadlines to explore areas before our next meeting.

As CfSH was established in 2007, it is very current, which is why it has proved difficult to source text books. A vast number of sources are government publications, which in my opinion bias support in favour of the CfSH. In comparison I have found very little independent information on the CfSH. I speculate that this is a result of independent organisations using the information for their internal use only. As a result of this further sources of independent information will come from my primary data collection outlined below in my research methodology section.

However, a review of secondary sources will be compiled throughout my dissertation including: journals, articles and magazines in order to comprehend published reactions and responses to the CfSH.

As well as the ongoing process of gathering up to date literature, an important part of my dissertation is going to be related to my workplace as I will need to consult a varying degree of people in order to achieve my aims and objectives. The advantage of choosing CfSH as my dissertation topic is the access I have to people involved in this field. WDH holds close links and good relationships with key organisations including; many Registered Social Landlords (RSL's), The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and the UK Green Building Council where our Chief Executive, John Frankiewicz holds a position on the board.

The close access to vital sources should be an advantage in gathering all necessary information and producing an accurate dissertation report. I have initiated contact and begun to build relationships with all sources in order to either interview them or ask them to complete a questionnaire as discussed in the research methodology element of this report.

As the principles of dissertation writing and the extensive research, data collection and analysis on this scale is new to me, I have researched books that will assist me in dissertation writing and analysing the information I have, whether it be qualitative or quantitative.

This section of the dissertation seeks to appraise the salient points of the literature review with a view of discovering the impact of the code for sustainable homes level six, the cost implications associated with meeting level six and the impact on the social housing main contractors. Finally, this section will seek whether the proposed 2016 carbon neutral deadline is attainable.


Climate change is the greatest long-term challenge facing the world today and tackling the threat is critical. The UK is a genuine world leader in this area, being the first country in to set a legally binding target, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent against 1990 levels before 2050 (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008a).

Today almost half of the UK's carbon emissions come from the use of buildings, of which 27 per cent our from our homes. Due to the government's annual household growth projections we need to build more new homes whilst mitigating the impact that they are likely to have, not just today, but over their lifetime (House of Commons, 2008).

To help achieve this target, the government launched the Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH) in April 2007. This introduced a new standard for designing and constructing new homes, setting out the mandatory achievement of zero carbon emissions from all new homes by 2016 (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008a).

The Code is based on the established EcoHomes assessment method, but it includes mandatory requirements in many areas, particularly concentrating on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and water consumption, setting new standards well beyond 'EcoHomes Excellent' (National House-Building Council Foundation, 2009).

Homes are assessed at both the design and post construction stages. Each dwelling is reviewed separately and depending on its performance, it is then awarded a certificate, ranging from Level 1 (one star) to 6 (six star), assuming it meets the required criteria (National House-Building Council Foundation, 2009).

While it remains voluntary to design and build a home to meet the standards set out in the Code, since May 2008 those selling new homes have been required to provide information to any prospective purchaser on the sustainability of the home. Department for Communities and Local Government (2008a) states that where a home is designed and built to the Code and assessed against it, a Code certificate will be provided, otherwise, a nil-rated certificate will be provided.

Compliance with the CfSH level three will become a mandatory requirement for all house builders in 2010. The minimum level required will then increase periodically; by 2013 the minimum standard will be code level four and by 2016 the minimum requirement will be code level six. For social housing the requirement for building to CfSH standard is set to a different timetable defined by The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and The Housing Corporation, depending on who is funding the work (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008a). Presently, all social housing is being built to code level 3, which is also due to increase periodically; by 2012 the minimum standard will be code level four and by 2015 it will be code level six, whereby the mandatory status of the Lifetime Homes element is required for any level 6 home built from April 2008.

The CfSH assesses against a minimum standard on each new dwelling against nine categories (National House-Building Council Foundation, 2009): each of which is allocated a number of credits and a percentage point contribution to the overall score. The design categories are:

Energy and CO2



Surface Water Run-off



Health and Wellbeing



Minimum standards exist for a number of categories, which must be achieved to gain a code level one sustainability rating. Energy efficiency and water efficiency categories also have minimum standards that must be achieved at every level of the Code. Apart from these minimum requirements, the code is flexible; contractors can choose which and how many standards they implement to obtain credits under the Code in order to achieve the required sustainability rating (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2009).

Energy Saving Trust (2008) states that in order to achieve a 100% cut in CO2 (code level 5), all emissions that are accounted for under the SAP 2005 methodology must be zero or negative whilst maintaining a maximum indoor water consumption of 80 litres per person per day. Energy Saving Trust (2008) goes on to specify zero carbon (code level 6):

"Net carbon dioxide emissions resulting from all energy used in the dwelling are zero or better. This includes the energy consumed in the operation of the space heating/cooling and hot-water systems, ventilation, all internal lighting cooking and all electrical appliances, these are now dealt with under Section 14 SAP 2005 extension for SDLT."

Similar to level 5, code level 6 needs to maintain a maximum indoor water consumption of 80 litres per person per day.

As shown in appendix 1, the estimated costs associated with achieving the Zero Carbon standard are disproportionately higher than for Code 5 (100 per cent improvement on TER) because of the need to achieve an extremely low heat loss parameter. The range in cost estimates from the best to worst case scenarios is more noticeable in the houses, particularly the detached house, and there is a clear link between development density and scale and cost (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008b).

Although savings such as utilising medium/large scale wind turbines on site (or connected via a private wire) or developing Robust Standard Details are not accounted for within the tables and may be achievable, there are also likely to be additional cost (House of Commons, 2008). Compliance with higher levels of the Code may require the introduction or re-specification of common infrastructure, such as use of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems and/or sustainable drainage as well as additional allowance for professional fees, legal fees and highways works (Department for Communities and Local Government 2008b).

Although we are capable of achieving code level 6 on some projects, the speed in which we are trying to reach it is presently unrealistic and uneconomical. Architects, housing developers and engineers commented that:

"the government's aim for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 as 'high risk' and 'unrealistic'. The Good Homes Alliance (GHA), a group which includes Edward Cullinan Architects, the Bartlett School of Architecture, and developer Bioregional Quintain, has called on the government to rethink its commitment to level six of the Code for Sustainable Homes. GHA chairman Neil May said: 'We don't want to be seen as resisting the need to build sustainable buildings, but the gap between aspirations and reality is too great.' May believes the industry should aim to build to Code Level 3++, which calls for a more conservative target of a 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, as opposed to zero carbon. He added: The Code has been pushed through far too quickly. If we don't get the building tightness or the ventilation systems right, we run the risk of building sick houses."

Vaughan, R. (2008). Government's 2016 zero-carbon homes target 'too unrealistic'. [online] The Architects Journal. Available from: < > [Accessed 1 January 2010]

This was supported in a article within the contract journal that goes onto say:

"The House Builders Association (HBA) has branded the government 'deluded' in its pursuit of zero carbon homes. The industry body has accused the government of having "no idea" when it signed up to make all new homes zero carbon by 2016. HBA strategic policy advisor Roger Humber called for a broader industry coalition to set more workable goals that allow house builders to use renewable energy. He said: "Neither Yvette Cooper nor the industry's leaders had the remotest idea what they meant when they first signed up to delivering zero carbon by 2016."

Kennett, S (2009) writes that RICS believe the government will struggle to meet its targets of zero carbon by 2016 saying that it is too expensive and unrealistic. They believe a 70% reduction is technically and reliably achievable through energy efficiency measures and on site technologies. Kennett, S (2009) goes onto write that RICS state the government's ultimate policy goal should still be to achieve a 100% reduction in emissions from new homes when technology becomes more viable and cost effective.

Kennett, S (2009). Give up on 2016 zero-carbon target, says RICS. [Online] Building. Available from: <> [Accessed 4 January 2009]

Although the target of zero carbon may not be met by 2016, we are likely to be closer to it than if a 70% target is substituted. One of the reasons given for the increased costs of zero carbon homes is a lack of skills and capacity in the supply chain. For example, in Germany where they have the Passive House Standard, it is possible for them to add triple glazing to their houses due to mass production, but in the UK so far that market does not exist (The House of Commons, 2008).

The overall impact of the zero carbon policy depends on whether necessary increases in skills and resources will meet the scale of construction required to meet the target and how costs fall over the limited time as the market develops and learns to adapt. The range of costs within appendix 1 highlights the uncertainties remaining in delivering zero carbon homes (Department for Communities and Local Government 2008b).

Research methods adopted

Research will be carried out using both literature and industry opinion. The findings will be analysed on both a quantitative and qualitative level. The following problem solving approach will be used as a basis of my research throughout my dissertation; this will ensure I focus on the relevant information and topics: review current information, identify problems and resolutions, collate views from relevant persons / organisations, appraise the potential impact and draw conclusions.

Literature will be reviewed that relates to each specific objective. The gathered information should develop issues and themes that will take the paper to the next stage of research design. By looking at previous research design or questionnaires, this will give some insights into how to best design the study efficiently. A great deal of thought and research has gone into previously published journal and articles, which will be utilised.

Willmott Dixon Housing (WDH) is committed to carrying out all its operations in a sustainable manner and was ranked as the UK's greenest contractor in the 2009 Sunday Times Green List, achieving an overall position of 3rd at the first attempt. WDH is one of the largest providers of social and affordable housing, designing and building over 1500 social housing units each year as well as carrying out responsive repairs and Decent Homes improvements to a further 65,000 homes. Drawing upon experience within the company by consulting with those directly involved with CfSH and reviewing the current company procedures will provide first hand information. Where possible, the data collected will be compared to that of the industry and comparisons drawn.

Information will be obtained from the above in a number of ways, one of which through questionnaires completed by a variety of fundamental employees both inside and outside of the company. For this paper, the sample range will be limited to twenty employees within Willmott Dixon and twenty externally including: Main contractors on-site personnel and senior management, Code for Sustainable Homes certified assessors, Architects & Structural Consultants, Social Housing Associations (Affinity Sutton Housing Association and Home Group), Project employers agents (PQS / project manager), Planners and local Authorities , Department for Communities and Local Goverment and Environment Agency staff.

By using a questionnaire to collect the data, there are a number of issues that need to be controlled or eliminated as stated by Milne [n.d.]. Questionnaires are standardised so it is not possible to explain any points in the questions that participants might misinterpret. This will be overcome by assisting the respondents when completing the survey, clarifying any points that they are unclear of. Open-ended questions can generate large amounts of data that can take a long time to process and analyse.

Respondents will be given multiple choice questions to limit the amount of

data generated. Respondents may answer superficially especially if the questionnaire takes a long time to complete. The respondents will be supervised and may be asked to clarify or explain the reasoning for their response, which should deter this from happening. Nevertheless, the length of the questionnaire will be relatively short.

Respondents may not be willing to answer the questions. They might not wish to reveal the information or they might think that they will not benefit from responding perhaps even be penalised by giving their real opinion. It will be explained to each respondent that the survey is confidential and is aimed at improving the company's performance. It will also be explained that their honesty is essential in order for the survey to be beneficial to the company. Milne [n.d.] states that the advantages of using questionnaires for collecting data are as follows:

The responses are gathered in a standardised way, so questionnaires are more objective, certainly more so than interviews.

Generally it is relatively quick to collect information using a questionnaire.

Potentially information can be collected from a large portion of a group.

Objective six will be satisfied by using the findings of the survey and the literature review to recommend measures that can be taken to improve the company's short term planning performance.

The completed questionnaires will create useful quantitative data which can be used to prepare tables and graphs. These methods of data will show a clear overview of the answers received. Some of the questions may allow for some qualitative results.

The second process of retrieving information from WDH will be through the form of personal interviews. These will be carried out with the key employees within the organisation, involved in delivering the CfSH. This will help me to build an appreciation of how the industry is reacting to the code and how it is preparing to build zero carbon homes.

It is my intention to carry out personal interviews in a semi structures format. These will be undertaken with a variety of industry employees involved in the CfSH. In a semi-structured interview the interviewer has the freedom to explore various areas and raise specific queries during the course of the interview. The advantage of using a semi-structured interview as opposed to other data collection techniques is that it allows more deep and detailed personal information that cannot be obtained by means of a questionnaire or a structured interview. Due to the interviews being held with extremely busy individuals the use of telephone interviews may need to be adopted, but the structure will remain the same.

Upon completion of the interviews, a short report will identify the main points raised in the interviews. The structured technique creates a good opportunity to compare answers and draw clear overall conclusions. Due to the range of backgrounds and job roles involved, qualitative data will be the best method to use to truly represent an overview of the opinions of the various organisations.

Case Studies will be the third method used to support in-depth analysis on code level 3, 4, 5 and 6. The case studies can be used to focus on single aspects and the conclusion drawn will not be generalised, but will focus on particular factors. Naoum (2004) explains that there are three types of case study designs, which provide in-depth analysis of a specific problem:

The descriptive case study which is similar to the concept of the descriptive survey (i.e. counting), except is it applied on detailed cases.

The analytical case study which is similar to the concept of the analytical survey (i.e. counting, association and relationship), except it is applied on detailed case(s).

The explanatory case study which is theoretical approach to the problem. It explains causality and tries to show linkages among the objects of the study. It asks why things happen the way they do. It also suggests that a single cause can have a specific effect. In other words, the researcher collects facts and studies the relationship of one set of facts to another, with the hope of finding some casual relationship between them.

As the sample of code level 5 and 6 projects is only small, the relationship can only be discussed intellectually (Naoum, 2004). The purposes of the case studies that will be used are for analytical research, identifying relationships and affects. I have collected data from four schemes of as similar scale possible that I shall use as a basis for the cost comparisons: a twenty four unit code 3 scheme, a twenty unit code 4 scheme, an eight unit code 5 scheme and a ten unit code 6 scheme. From the data I shall identify the additional cost of conforming to code level 6 and the effect it will have on the social housing sector meeting the zero carbon target.

Chapter 1 - Rationale

This chapter sets out the code for sustainable homes and the reason for assessing code level 6, highlighting the issues to be investigated. It will also include an aim, which will be subdivided into three to five single sentenced objectives. The objectives will then pose a number of questions (1 or 2), which will form the basis of the research methods adopted (Naoum, 2004).

Chapter one will ensure that the reader is fully aware of the purpose of the dissertation and the manner in which it shall be written.

Chapter 2 - An Introduction to the Code for Sustainable Homes

Chapter two is background research through the study of relevant literature. Its purpose is to summarise current knowledge within the subject area of the project and introduce the reader to the CfSH. Within this chapter I shall review the requirements of CfSH level 6 and discuss the challenge we face in trying to meet this on a large scale.

Once the reader has read this chapter, they will be aware of what the Code for Sustainable Homes is and understand the influence of code level six.

Chapter 3 - Research Methodology

This chapter shall discuss how my research was gathered and collated. It will explain how I have aligned the methodology to my dissertation's aims and objectives with information supported by my literature review.

The quantitative research shall provide me with information that can be used in conjunction with my aims and objectives. My quantitative research will provide information that details the for and against of code level 6 within the timescales and whether or not this should be reviewed.

Some of my research shall be attitudinal, this shall provide me with opinions and theories that can be used to support or oppose the quantitative research.

Chapter 3 will enable the reader to understand the reasons why the chosen research methodology has been designed in this way and the methods in which it has been distributed and collated.

Chapter 4 - Data Analysis

This chapter will display the results of questionnaires, interviews and case studies. It is designed to examine the attitude of the social housing contractor, RSL's and industry professionals. Within this chapter suitable graphs, tables and charts will be used to portray the results from each question asked followed by a conclusion explaining and expanding the findings.

The case studies will examine all mandatory (as of 2010) levels of code from level 3 to 6, using on site WDH projects. This will provide first hand data, examining the costs of compliance and contributing to the primary research.

Having read chapter three, the reader shall be able to identify how CfSH level 6 influences the cost of a project and the affect on zero carbon homes by 2015.

Chapter 5 - Conclusion

This chapter will conclude the statements made in my dissertation and shall recommend further actions into areas that may not have been fully supported. It will also re-evaluate the anticipated conclusions and, if applicable, give reason for the change.


This chapter will detail all the research that has been used and referenced within the dissertation.


This chapter will detail all the materials that are consulted whilst constructing the dissertation.

Anticipated Conclusion

From the research carried out to date it appears to be the general consensus that we will not meet the zero carbon deadlines by 2015 on ever project. It appears that the technology and supply chain is not in a position to meet the requirement at competitive rates.

In order to ensure we are ready for the deadline we need to start building code 6 on larger scales. Willmott Dixon Housing currently turns over around £150m within the social housing sector each year, of which, less than 1% is code 6 and around 1% is code level 5.

Unless the technology is developed more rapidly, the government will have to re-think their target.