The Code for Sustainable Homes

The Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) was introduced by The Government in December 2006 as a national standard for the sustainable design and construction of new homes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland along with a target for all new homes to be rated Carbon Zero (Code level 6) by 2016.

The subsequent change of Government, changes to the building regulations and the code itself can leave many self builders wondering where they stand.

For other self builders, the code provides an ideal framework to achieve exceptional levels of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability beyond current building regulations.

The Code

The Code for Sustainable Homes is based on BRE Global's EcoHomes scheme and was designed to provide a framework for assessing and certifying the sustainability of new homes with standards exceeding those set out in Part L of the building regulations at the time.

Rated certification was intended to provide information to home buyers and to provide builders with a means to differentiate their developments in terms of environmental sustainability.

The Code measures the sustainable design of a new home in nine categories:

  • Energy and CO2 emissions.
  • Water.
  • Materials.
  • Surface water run-off.
  • Waste.
  • Pollution.
  • Health and wellbeing.
  • Management.
  • Ecology.

Credits are awarded for meeting criteria set out in each category and the sum of the credits results in a 'whole house' star rating on a level of 0 to 6.

In order to comply with the code, assessment must be completed by a licenced CSH assessor both at the design stage and on completion.

Where Are We Now?

In 2008 it became mandatory for new homes to be rated against the code for sustainable homes and to obtain a certificate, even if it was a cursory 'nil-rated' certificate. In 2010 however, following the change of Government, the requirement for this certificate was suspended along with Home Information Packs (HIPs).

To some extent, changes to approved document L1A of the building regulations in October 2010 brought the regulations in line with Level 3 of the code with a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions on the 2006 regulations. Further changes in 2013 are expected to bring the building regulations in line with level 4 and on track for the Carbon Zero target by 2016.

The Code and Self Builders

Generally, compliance with the code is voluntary for private house builders but some local authorities require a certain level of compliance as a condition of planning approval.

If you are a self builder, interested in doing as much as you can to reduce the environmental impact of your home (as many are!) then having a look at the higher levels, 4, 5 and 6 of the code is a great place to start and a good indication of where the legislation is heading.

The vast majority of self builders will be using an architect, designer or package company, so discuss with them at an early stage if you are interested in going above and beyond the call of duty.


The Department for Communities and Local Government produce a cost review for building to the various levels of the code. The latest version was published in March 2010 and gave extra-over cost percentages above basic build costs as follows:

  • Code Level 1 - Up to 1%
  • Code Level 2 - 1 - 2%
  • Code Level 3 - 3 - 4 %
  • Code Level 4 - 6 - 8%
  • Code Level 5 - 25 - 30%
  • Code Level 6 - 30 - 40%

The building regulations have changed since this report was published which will affect the base build costs but they do still give a useful indication. Have a look at the report for more information:

Code for Sustainable Homes: A Cost Review

More Information

The code is subject to ongoing consultations and adjustments and there are all manner of associated documents, technical guides, calculation tools and changes to previous versions.

For the latest versions of downloadable documents, visit:

The Planning Portal


The Department for Communities and Local Government

Check with your Local Authority during your initial inquiries to find out if there are any CSH requirements for planning approval.


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