Bricks & Water: A Plan of Action for Building Homes and Managing Water

We need a fairer, stronger and simpler planning framework for delivering water-efficient homes that are resilient to flooding – a bricks and water code, say Angela Smith MP and Baroness McIntosh. 

The climate is changing, and we need to adapt to it. Frustrated by the lack of a clear strategic framework and the inadequacies of the planning system Angela Smith and Baroness McIntosh have co-chaired a new report that addresses tough and complex issues – how do we build the number of homes we need in England, while at the same time ensuring we improve flood resilience and water availability?

The Westminster Sustainable Business Forum (WSBF), which published the report – ‘Bricks and Water’ – in June, brought together big players in the house building, water and planning sectors to address these challenges.


Future water shortages in England are a very real possibility and the National Infrastructure Commission estimates the potential supply shortfall could be as high as 22%. 

At the same time, flooding is a serious problem and is only likely to get worse due to climate change: 1.8 million houses in England are currently at high risk of flooding, and this number could more than double by the mid-century at a potential annual cost of £2.2bn per annum. This highlights the importance of building homes in the right place and to the right standard.


Water efficiency and energy efficiency in the home go hand in hand. While there is often not a strong financial incentive for homeowners to save water (even with a water meter), there can be large savings on the bill for heating water. In a typical UK household, approximately 20% of the energy used in the home is for heating water, more than any other appliance.


The government needs to become serious about sustainable development in delivering its ambitious house building targets of 300,000 new homes built per year. Bricks and Water found that house builders were frustrated with the fragmented framework within which they were forced to operate and emphasised the importance of consistently applied standards.


WSBF is proposing a new ‘bricks and water sustainability code’ for new housing; a fairer, tougher and simpler planning framework designed to deliver to the highest standards possible and to ensure a level playing field for developers.

A range of measures would be required to facilitate delivery of the new code, not least of these being acceptance of water and sewerage companies as statutory consultees on individual planning applications.

The new sustainability code would require sustainable drainage as the norm and builders would be supported in adapting to this new standard.


The report also recommends that the government creates a new property resilience certificate (PRC) for homes rating them on water efficiency, energy performance, flood risk and resilience. The PRC would be the first step in making homebuyers (and private renters) aware of these critically significant factors and they would provide an important first step in driving the development of a market for highly rated homes.


Angela Smith MP and Baroness McIntosh of Pickering have promised to continue this conversation across the sectors and drill down into specific aspects in follow up work on the difficult issue of how to achieve housing growth, while at the same time successfully addressing water management challenges. 


External Sources

Bricks & Water: A Plan of Action for Building Homes and Managing Water in England – full report