There are many areas where achieving standards above minimum requirements leads to positive outcomes for home occupiers. It is important to ensure these standards are realised in construction (not just in planning and design) and are also communicated to the home occupier to ensure that they understand the full potential of their home.
Independent, accredited certification provides a number of benefits for different stakeholders to help give them confidence in what is better, as well as to allow for robust and credible comparisons to be made. This applies to most certification schemes, whether it be BREEAM, HQM, Passivhaus, LEED or WELL. While they measure varying aspects and in differing ways, they provide a degree of rigour and comparability in evidence and methodology. This makes them credible.
We all want to have confidence in the goods and services that we receive, whether it’s the car we drive, the schools and hospitals we use or the homes we live in. Certification enables us to make a more informed choice and take less of a gamble: for example, EuroNCAP has not only become a trusted stamp of approval, but has also significantly improved the safety in modern cars beyond what regulations require.
Certification provides reassurance, trust and the ability to compare clearly between different homes. With a certificate in place the home occupier can have much greater confidence in the performance of their home, knowing that claims about quality, savings and benefits have been independently verified. This empowers home owners to make better choices: If two apparently identical houses are available but one has an independent certificate backing up the claimed performance and the other doesn’t – which would you choose?
The main benefit to developers for using independent certification is differentiation of product against competitors. It can become a key marketing tool in drawing out the benefits of their particular home. Consumers are starting to value certification: Passivhaus gains over 90% approval ratings by occupiers and in a survey carried out for HQM over 70% of respondents said they would be happy to pay over £750 extra (on a home valued at £300k) for a certificate demonstrating its overall quality and sustainability.
Financial sector, health sector, land owners, planners, and beyond
Certification also provides evidence for many other sectors. For example, it provides the financial and insurance sector with an additional tool for determining and therefore managing risks. In turn this provides additional reassurance for investment decisions: if such a decision is to be made between two developers, who are building outwardly identical homes, but one is certified, accreditation is likely to add confidence With a growing cost, and reducing budgets in the health sector, certification can help give reassurance around what developments and communities are best to encourage in the local area, helping to reduce the future burden on the health sector.
Whole house certification and standards also provide the construction industry and its supply chains as a whole with a number of benefits. Firstly standards that improve on minimum requirements provide a framework to drive forward the quality and performance delivered by industry. As many certification schemes are linked to research bodies, the income generated from certification helps to fund further research. BREEAM, HQM (and in the past the Code for Sustainable Homes) provide funding to the BRE Trust, which in turn helps fund research that leads to many of the reports referenced in this document. Furthermore, certification can help pave the way to future regulation, or in many situations make it clear that regulation is not appropriated. It can help build the case, by providing evidence and also ways in which it can be measured. If leading developers in industry are already building to higher [voluntary] standards, this learning and product development makes it much cheaper for the rest of industry when (and if) higher standards are integrated into regulations.
This blog was first written for UKGBC’s Task Group Report: Health and Wellbeing in Homes, the full report can be found here.