Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by National House-Building Council (NHBC) (AFH 14)

  NHBC's primary purpose is to help raise standards in the new house-building industry. We therefore wish to contribute to the inquiry with respect to the quality of affordable housing.

  I have attached a briefing document which introduces NHBC and sets out how we set and monitor standards for the quality of new homes.

  In addition I have included in the brief some information on the complementary services we provide to the industry, such as our Engineering, Energy Rating, Training and Health and Safety Services. Our Engineering and Energy Rating Services are particularly relevant to the inquiry as our engineering services include expertise on structural engineering matters and on the remediation of contaminated land. These issues are all the more important given the increased use of brownfield sites and the move towards higher density housing. Additionally our Energy Rating Services help to provide housing that is both economic in its energy demands and sustainable in its effects on communities and the environment.

  Finally, I have included information on our work with Government and industry stakeholders. This includes our contribution to various Government, professional and technical bodies and our sponsorship of a wide range of research.


  NHBC (the National House-Building Council) is the leading warranty and insurance provider for new homes in the UK. We were established 65 years ago as a non profit-distributing company, and our primary purpose is to help raise standards in the new house-building industry.

Who are our customers?

  NHBC's two main customers are registered house builders and homebuyers.

  We provide buyers of new homes with 10 years' "Buildmark" warranty and insurance protection, and our comprehensive range of products and services assists registered builders to improve the quality of new homes.

What Do We Do?

  NHBC's unique combination of roles allows us to achieve our main purpose of helping to raise standards, with the structure of our core activities creating a "virtuous circle," driving improvements in industry standards and enabling us to help improve the quality of the UK's housing stock.

  This is achieved through:

Registering builders who must comply with NHBC's Rules and Standards

  NHBC maintains a register of builders and developers who satisfy set criteria in regards to their business and in the case of builders their technical ability. At present there are 17,700 builders registered with NHBC, who build almost 85 per cent of the new homes built in the UK every year. Once registered, builders are required to build in accordance with NHBC Standards.

Setting Technical Standards for new homes

  Our Technical Standards are continually up-dated as a means of reducing construction defects. Over the years the Standards have demonstrably improved the quality of new homes. In addition NHBC Technical staff provide comprehensive advice on the use of systems and products to meet NHBC Standards, as well as producing the highly acclaimed technical publication "Standards Extra" for the industry.

Performing inspections at key stages of construction

  To help builders comply with their responsibilities for building in accordance with NHBC Standards and to protect the purchaser we carry out Key Stage Inspections at significant stages of construction. Last year we carried out inspections on over 770,000 new homes.

  In 1985 NHBC Building Control Services Ltd became the first "Approved Inspector" approved by the Secretary of State to undertake Building Control. Therefore where NHBC does Building Control, we check work to both Building Regulations and NHBC Standards.

Providing "Buildmark", the most comprehensive warranty and insurance cover in the UK

  Buildmark provides 10-year warranty and insurance cover on new homes. Currently over 1.6 million homes in the UK are protected by the Buildmark warranty and over time NHBC has inspected and provided protection to nearly six million homes.

  Buildmark Choice derives directly from Buildmark but has been specifically designed for house builders or developers working in the social housing sector. The cover consists of a choice of core cover with additional supplementary insurance options, such as contractor insolvency cover and loss of rent cover. The flexibility in this cover allows Housing Associations and Registered Social Landlords to tailor the Buildmark product to match their needs.

  Our improvements to the Buildmark scheme were recognised in the Government's April 2000 Housing Green Paper.

Offering a range of complementary professional services including engineering, energy rating, training and health and safety to the house building industry

  Our Engineering Services provide professional engineering advice and consultancy on civil, structural and environmental engineering matters. We have a team of engineers based around the country who work in conjunction with NHBC building inspectors to help identify potential hazards and eliminate problems before they occur. This aims to ensure that the construction is right first time.

  The Engineering Services we provide have become all the more important given the increases in the use of brownfield sites and the move towards more higher density housing.

  Furthermore NHBC has contributed considerably through our Land Quality Initiative to the standards for remediating contaminated land. In addition we contributed to the Urban Task Force and are assisting in implementing the initiatives arising from it, including the Single Regeneration Permit and the Land Condition Report.

  NHBC carries out 6,000 home energy ratings each year providing independent technical advice to builders enabling them to optimise energy efficiency and select cost-effective designs and materials. As well as helping to protect the environment, this work on energy efficiency specifically aids the home owner by making the running costs of a house more affordable.

  NHBC has been presented with the HENRY Award (Home Energy Rater of the Year) for industry support by the National Home Energy Rating (NHER) scheme. The award recognises the contribution that NHBC has made to raise awareness of the energy rating scheme within the house-building industry.

  NHBC is the largest provider of construction management training in the UK and a major provider of Health and Safety services to the house-building industry.

Working with Government and industry stakeholders

  Finally NHBC contributes to a range of Government, professional and technical bodies including the Housing Forum, Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) the Building Control Performance Standards Advisory Group (BCPSAG), The Standing Committee on Construction and the British Urban Regeneration Agency (BURA) and contributed to the Urban Task Force.

  We are also involved in a wide range of research projects. In October 1999 we jointly sponsored a Demos research project with the Housing Corporation, entitled "Living together: community life on mixed tenure estates" and this year sponsored and provided key input into the DTLR and EA (Environment Agency) flooding research and the new guidance publication "Preparing for Floods".

  Over the last five years NHBC has supported both financially and with staff time over 130 projects, with a total value of over £5 million. An example of this is our funding to BRE (Building Research Establishment) to develop "EcoHomes—The Environmental Rating for Homes", and its companion publication "the Green Guide to Housing Specification", both published in 2000. "EcoHomes" now provides a truly meaningful indicator of the environmental performance and impact of new housing. This facilitates the provision of warm affordable energy efficient housing that is also sustainable in its effect on communities and the environment. There is a growing use of these two schemes, both in the private sector, and by housing associations following endorsement by the Housing Corporation.

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