The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have issued a report (A Housing Design Audit for England) in which they judged three-quarters of audited housing projects to be of "mediocre" or "poor" design quality.
Calling for action from developers, the report says that "a big leap needs to be made to higher quality design by the industry as a whole" adding that "the largest housebuilders should set the ethical standards for the industry at large".
Highlighting specific design failures, the report said: "The least successful design elements nationally relate to overly engineered highways infrastructure and the poor integration of storage, bins and car parking."
This isn’t going far enough. The construction sector is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Given the Climate Change Emergency which the Government and every Council in the land is signing up to, housing design standards need to be updated to support the zero carbon goals.
Firstly, housing (and the associated infrastructure – schools, leisure facilities and health facilities) needs to be built together and close to employment to minimise the need for transport.
In this area, this means allowing building on or near the Harwell Campus as well as building at Didcot near Milton Park and the rail station.
Jobs around here are limited and people need to be able to walk or cycle to jobs, schools (not have to drive to schools in nearby villages), health and leisure facilities.
It also means opening Grove station immediately to support the ongoing housing growth in Grove and Wantage.
Building more homes here without the station will not help carbon reduction.
Secondly, homes need to be better insulated and use passive energy sources such as sunlight and human and appliance generated heat to dramatically decrease the need for additional space heating.
Emissions can be reduced by using energy efficient materials and innovative space heating and cooling technologies such as solar panels.
They must also have efficient ventilation systems. The flow of air around and out of a building is a large factor in determining the amount of additional heating needed.
Also saving water by rainwater harvesting from impermeable surfaces such as roofs and recycling of greywater from sinks, showers and baths should also be built in.
Unless new building incorporate all these things now, we will have great difficulty in achieving the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in future.