18.06.2015

Home Quality Mark – What is it and how will it affect you?

Home Quality Mark – What is it and how will it affect you?

Since 2007 Registered Providers and contractors have used Code for Sustainable Homes in order to measure sustainability. Whilst this has been effective in producing energy efficient homes, it hasn’t always been the most accurate way for the end user to understand how to best use their home to improve their quality of life. 

Last year the government announced that it would be withdrawing Code, and in March earlier this year BRE announced at Ecobuild the replacement of Code for Sustainable Homes with the Home Quality Mark (HQM).

What is the Home Quality Mark?

The HQM is a rigorous and relevant assessment and score of a building’s quality. This includes rating a home’s performance covering energy cost, water efficiency, environmental footprint, sound insulation, daylight and air quality. HQM also rates the impact the home will have on householders including their health and wellbeing.

Essentially, HQM is a way of rating the quality of a new home. This includes the design and construction as well as the running costs a new home will bring. Think of it as similar to buying a car or a mobile phone, HQM will provide greater detail about a property so that consumers have a better understanding of what is available.

What’s different about the Home Quality Mark?

The most obvious difference between code and the Home Quality Mark is that the latter, as the name may suggest is more focused on the quality of a home in addition to sustainability. Whilst sustainability is still a major factor, it is just one of the requirements under HQM. The sustainability of a home naturally affects the running costs as well as the temperature, environmental factors and even the materials used which are all assessed under HQM. Yet the difference from Code is that HQM is intending to make the benefits of a sustainable and high quality home easier for end users to understand.

Benefits end users will understand include changes in technology. In 2013 there were over 21 million households in the UK with access to an internet connection. This is only going to increase, as well as the demand for other technologies. Unlike Code, HQM is more in line with what end users expect from a home including the ability to access advances in technology. BRE have stated that HQM will aim to provide as many details on a home’s digital connectivity and performance so that end users can be sure their home is equipped for their needs.

HQM is voluntary. Code was also technically voluntary, but funding was impossible to get unless designs achieved Code. Planners, contractors and designers do not have to take HQM into account when designing and building new properties. Yet the positives of building a HQM rated home will be far more appealing to homeowners than those without a star rating. Benefits such as cheaper running costs and improved health and wellbeing will surely tip the balance in favour of those designed and built according to HQM.

How Is the Home Quality Mark Assessed?

Similar to Code, HQM uses a rating system in order to define the quality of a home. There are a total of five stars achievable; the more criterion met increases the number of stars assigned to a home. For example, a four star home would be designed and built in a way that achieves low running costs, has positive impacts on the end users health and wellbeing, is affordable and has low impacts on the local environment.

They way in which homes are assessed revolve around different assessment areas: Knowledge Sharing, Our Surroundings and My Home, the latter of which rewards homes that have healthy living spaces. ‘Our Surroundings’ includes assessing local transport links. Code previously cut transport from its assessment as some deemed it an unfair category, but with over 5 billion people using local transport throughout Britain last year alone this is an essential assessment for end users.

Most importantly for end users will likely be ‘My Cost’ – finding out how costly their home will be on a day to day basis. Not only does this include lighting, heating and cooling but also at how insurance and mortgage prices could fall. This assessment is significant for end users and new under HQM. Homes that are built to reduce the possibility of flooding and damage should incur lower insurance costs.

Homes that reach any or all of these could be rewarded a higher star rating and use processes and solutions that reduce the gap between designer, contractor, client and householder, streamlining the entire development process. Homes that look at local surroundings and are built to work fluidly with their surrounding areas whilst remaining affordable will achieve a higher HQM rating.

Whilst there are different assessment areas to look at, BRE are still working to finalise exact details on how they will train and qualify existing assessors under the HQM.

How will this affect consumer’s decision to buy or rent a home?

The reason of HQMs creation is for the end user to reap as many benefits as possible from buying or renting a home. Research showed that more than two-thirds of people surveyed on the factors influencing their choice of home thought it very important for properties to have sustainable features including triple glazing and quality insulation.

HQM provides necessary information about the performance of a home in an understandable manner, so that end users can comprehensively make the right decision when deciding to buy or rent a home.

The HQM rating assesses all aspects of the design and build process including types of building materials used, to how specific designs will keep temperatures up in bitter cold winters. Based on the assessment you would assume the higher the rating, the better the quality of home. It’s possible the HQM could influence the way consumers choose which home is appropriate for them, but with clearer access to information it ensures consumers are given the best options.

What About Registered Providers?

Although HQM isn’t compulsory for Registered Providers, its likely consumers will choose a home to rent or buy that is Home Quality Marked and will incur lower running costs. So for Registered Providers it’s an obvious choice; cheaper to run, high quality houses will sell better as opposed to those that aren’t HQM rated.

Yet it’s not just the end users that benefit from HQM, housing developers can also benefit when designing and building new properties. They can market their designs to consumers as being both quality assured under HQM and money saving for end users. Developers are aiming to provide homes that require low maintenance, cheaper running costs, resilience to flooding and the ability to cope better with a changing climate which could push the balance in their favour for consumers.

Essentially HQM is a more end user friendly assessment than Code. It takes over where Code left off, but is more understanding to what the end user wants from a home. Changes in technology, health and wellbeing are just as important to end users as keeping running costs low and HQM aims to ensure homes are built with all these at the forefront of their design.

For more information, contact our Environmental Manager Jaqcui Clarke on:

T: 01689 888322
E: jclarke@calfordseaden.co.uk