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
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
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
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
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
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
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 "EcoHomesThe
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.