STSD - Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development STSD - Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development d

Social Housing

This is a good route for introducing sustainable construction on a significant scale. Reasons for the success include:

  • Social and affordable housing represents 30%-35% of all new housing allocations, and can be particular influential in Key Site developments
  • A short chain of advice and good attitudes to partnership
  • Housing Associations are used to working closely with local authorities
  • Appropriate routes exist for SSDC to build in sustainable construction requirements with social housing partners - via a) Best Level Partner and Threshold Partner agreements, b) local plan policies and Key Site Development Briefs
  • There are clear and easily communicated benefits of sustainable construction for clients i.e. lifetime affordability through significantly lower running costs (i.e. 50%+ lower) achieved relatively easily through good sustainable design; also sustainable housing is healthy housing for those most in need
  • There are already a number of regional and national examples of social housing developments that have seriously addressed sustainable construction issues
  • The emergence of the Trust in general appears to be welcomed by Housing Associations and has already led to several likely exemplars schemes being identified, because the Trust a) provides a trustworthy local source of advice and information and b) offers a variety of partnership opportunities on specific development schemes

Several exemplar social housing projects and sustainability improvements have already been undertaken or secured in local HA development programmes e.g. in Somerton by Raglan HA; an SSDC ‘eco-house’ on Stibey Road, refurbished in the early 1980s; South Petherton Self Build, with Knightstone

Specific Issues for RSL Specifications and Refurbishment Programmes:

Use of timber in construction:

  • FSC accredited timber and use of local timber supplies
  • General limited uses of and understanding / knowledge of timber
  • Timber Frame Housing.

Avoiding Use of PVC:

Use of PVC needs serious consideration on the basis of:

  • Life cycle cost concerns regarding failure to perform as publicised, non-repairability, etc
  • Very serious environmental and health impacts both during the manufacture and processing of PVC (production of dioxins), and
  • Its disposal and lack of re-usability and lack of recyclability.

Water Efficiency:

  • Water efficiency and ‘affordable water’

Insulation and Energy Efficiency:

  • Increased efficiency - and therefore much lower running costs and greater lifetime affordability - should be incorporated as a matter of course into RSLs basic specifications

Conclusions on Social Housing and Sustainable Construction:
  • This is a key area of work in which Housing Associations are generally responding positively. There appears to be significant potential to achieve the desired exemplar schemes within the desired timeframe, with significant sustainability considerations also becoming integrated into several key Housing Associations' general specifications.
  • The main area of work lacking attention so far with Social Housing is the existing building stock (see later Recommendations for additional project strands)
  • A major conclusion, that is proven by an increasing number of social housing schemes, is that highly sustainable construction in social housing can be delivered within existing housing corporation budgets, if it is well designed.
  • A further major conclusion again highlights the links between sub-projects; work on Key Site Development Briefs, and support from additional Local Plan policies and / or Supplementary Guidance is essential to ensure that the 1000 or so social and affordable houses to be built within the key site developments are built to the highest possible sustainable construction standards

Recommended Targets for 2001
  • Adoption of voluntary ‘Super Regs’ by the three Best Level Partners
  • Review and updating of Best Level Partners’ new build specifications to significantly incorporate sustainable construction
  • Initiation of sustainable maintenance and refurbishment initiative by Best Level Partners
  • Completion of at least one best practise exemplar scheme by each Best Level RSL


It is recommended that:

SSDC Internal

  • This section of the report be submitted to Housing and Accommodation Group for consideration, and if seen as being in an appropriate format, also to be circulated to RSL partners

Work With RSLs

  • To continue work on the integration of sustainability into Best Level RSL / Housing Association requirements (including partnering work on development schemes)
  • SSDC should encourage or require RSL partners to develop and implement distinct, but linked, strategies to integrate sustainable construction into:
    • new build
    • existing housing stock
  • SSDC should call for review and updating of Best Level and Threshold Level RSL partners’ new build specifications to significantly incorporate sustainable construction.
  • As part of their specifications upgrade SSDC should require the Best Level partner RSLs to adopt ‘Voluntary Super Regs’ - these could be as indicated in the DETR / BRE Report GIR 53, or be in line with standards indicated in the draft Guide to Sustainable Construction for Housing Associations produced by the project consultant.
  • SSDC should continue to encourage a) RSL staff and b) RSL development partners (particularly architects and contractors) to take advantage of the SC Seminar programme.
  • A Guide to Sustainable Construction for Housing Associations is produced by STSD covering key principles and major issues / elements of their general specifications and maintenance programmes, such as
  • External Wall Insulation (EWI): Housing Associations should contact BRE to ensure they obtain a copy of the Good Practice Advice Note on EWI that is being produced this year. EWI is particularly relevant to addressing the sustainability of the existing stock, as well as being relevant to new build.
  • Initiation of sustainable maintenance and refurbishment initiative by Best Level Partners.
  • SSDC should seek completion of at least one best practise exemplar scheme by each Best Level RSL within 2001/2002, and encourage also exemplar projects amongst Threshold partners.

Relationship to Planning

  • To lobby Planning Policy (via relevant senior officers and members) for a) the production of Supplementary Planning Guidance, and b) local plan policies which require for Best Practice in Sustainable Construction for social and affordable housing on a district-wide basis, because a) high efficiency creates life-time affordability through very low bills, and b) sustainable construction leads to healthy housing for those most in need. This should be incorporated with other sustainable construction policies, and cross-referenced in the social housing section

General Strategy

  • Key officers and members should take action to ensure that a programme is initiated with partner RSLs - especially South Somerset Homes - to address sustainable construction issues in relation to the Existing Social Housing Stock - see General Conclusions and Recommendations section below.
  • Sustainable Self Build should be recognised as a potential route for helping provide sustainable affordable housing, as well as being potentially relevant for some Social Housing schemes e.g. linking in with youth and unemployed training, etc. The feasibility of such projects should be assessed. The issue of land availability for affordable and social self build projects should be taken up with planners, emphasising that PPG3 requires planning authorities to cater for greater choice and availability in both housing types and in lifestyle. This would represent another positive and innovative area of planning policy and practice.



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