The Building Research Establishment (BRE) is introducing a national quality mark for new housing that it claims should give home buyers and renters a clear indication of the quality and performance of a new home.
The BRE says it is a “world leading building science centre that generates new knowledge through research. This is used to create products, tools and standards that drive positive change across the built environment.” The BRE claim its ownership structure enables the BRE to be “held as a national asset on behalf of the construction industry and its clients, independent of specific commercial interests.” Allegedly protecting the “impartiality and objectivity of the BRE Group in providing research and guidance.” The BRE Trust is a registered company limited by guarantee and also registered as a charity in England.
A number of stakeholders are currently working with BRE on the development of their Home Quality Mark from its beta testing stage. Of the housebuilders, only Galliford – with its perennial ‘four-star’ HBF-rated Linden subsidiary, ‘minnow’ Cala, and Kier are currently involved at present.
CALA Homes, plan to trial the Mark. Cala Chief Executive Alan Brown said: “Independent benchmarking of new homes is hugely important. For CALA, it provides third party recognition of our commitment to consistently build high quality, sustainable homes. For homeowners, it offers a simple and reliable measure of the energy performance of the property they are buying. We look forward to working with BRE on the new Home Quality Mark.”
The BRE say “the new national quality mark will transform the way consumers choose the homes they buy and rent and will provide house builders with a valuable independent quality mark they can use to highlight the innovative features of their homes and differentiate themselves in the marketplace at a time of rapid growth.”
It is claimed that by using a simple 1 to 5 star rating, the Home Quality Mark will give homebuyers and those renting “a clear indication of the quality and performance of a new home.” However, it will be limited to illustrating things like the home’s overall energy running costs (already covered by the mandatory Energy Performance Certificate) and the impact of the home on the occupant’s health and wellbeing. Other factors will include “the home’s environmental footprint, and its resilience to flooding and overheating in a changing climate” Further detailed information on specific areas including sound insulation, energy costs, daylight, size of rooms and air quality will be “available” as well. The Home Quality Mark will also “evaluate the digital connectivity and performance of the home as our reliance on new technology becomes ever more critical.” For more information on how it works
The BRE say their Home Quality Mark “comes in the absence of any third party approval stamp covering these issues that consumers can use when making the most significant investment of their lifetime.” Whilst a welcome addition, it is unlikely to influence the actual build quality of individual new homes for the better. Indeed, as house builders all clamour to get the 5 star rating for their house types and developments, defects will be even more likely as additional technology and features are introduced in new homes to attain a higher BRE star rating “Home Quality Mark”
According to recent consumer research carried out by BRE, 97% of respondents support the introduction of the Home Quality Mark saying they would welcome it. But is it what they thought it was? It will have nothing to do with inspecting the actual quality of each individual new home, but you can be sure that participating house builders will use it in their marketing as such.
Chief Executive of BRE, Dr Peter Bonfield says “It is our long term goal that the Home Quality Mark will become the de facto sign of a better home – something that home buyers can rely on and use in their purchase decisions. It will also be used by house builders to demonstrate the quality and performance of the homes they deliver.”
Unfortunately this “Quality Mark” is not something that will benefit new homebuyers by ensuring they buy better quality new homes. It will, in all probability, be used by the industry as another marketing “badge” to mislead prospective new homebuyers in much the same way as the current HBF Customer Satisfaction builder star rating.
Even in the example given on the website, a score of 3 stars for “Wellbeing” and 4 for both “Costs” and “Footprint” comes in at an overall 4 stars, being described as “An excellent new home. Achieving this Mark means the home is designed and built to have very low running costs, many positive impacts on your health and well being (this scored just 3 stars!) all with an extremely low impact on our environment” You have to wonder what the BRE would say about a new home that scored 5 stars for every aspect!
“Homes built to the mark will be independently evaluated by licensed BRE Global assessors. As a voluntary mark, it signals a significant departure from previous codes and standards.” No doubt house builders will be charged for the “independent evaluation” and making tax-deductible contributions to the BRE, a registered charity.
The Mark was formally launched to the house building industry on 3rd March 2015 at Ecobuild. House builders can register developments under the Home Quality Mark from June 2015. More information can be found at www.homequalitymark.com