The new environmental assessment standard – called BREEAM Communities – will be launched early next year and is being developed in partnership with regional development agencies (RDAs).
Ed Cotter, special projects manager at BRE, said the rating system will be closely linked to the sustainability targets set down by RDAs and local authorities.
This means the weighting of the new system – which will integrate social, economic and design issues – will be led by local and regional priorities, backed up by the latest Planning Policy Statements.
Mr Cotter said: “My recommendation [to CHP specialists] is to lobby the RDAs and local authorities now because we are reflecting directly the planning objectives they are setting.”
Phil Jones, research fellow at London South Bank University and chairman of the Energy Performance Group at the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, said: “I think it would be good to have a rating scheme for a whole community, but it could be very complex and the trick will be to keep it relatively simple and practical.
“I would stress that at a community level – rather than within a single building – something like CHP has even more importance by pulling that community together and improving its whole environmental impact.
“If you are able to link the energy needs of lots of different buildings together and supply them with a low carbon technology then that should receive a pretty high rating in this new scheme.
“I would argue community-wide CHP should be very high on the points scale because it can reduce carbon emissions in difficult-to-deal-with buildings, for example poor quality housing and historic buildings.”
At a pre-application stage under BREEAM Communities the developer will be guided through a checklist linked to regional and local policies which will show how they can achieve accreditation.
To become accredited they will then have to submit full documentation on their proposals and undergo a full assessment to allow a final BREEAM report to be submitted with the planning application.
Mr Cotter said this will speed up the planning process as the assessment will have been conducted by an independent, third party and local planners will not have to spend time and resources verifying the sustainable aspects of the application.
He said: “This offers an opportunity to think holistically about how to approach the design of a particular development in terms of energy, heating and cooling – which will become more and more relevant.
“I think this will provide an excellent chance for developers and planning authorities to bring stakeholders around the table to discuss issues.
“That will provide the framework to enable community heating and power systems to be incorporated into designs as soon as possible at a master plan level and then followed through to post construction.”
Mr Jones said: “It will be interesting to see how they will restrict the size of the community they are looking at.
“If they are trying to come up with a framework which will rate something as large as the Olympic Village then that will be very difficult, but it is certainly worth a try and I look forward to the outcome.”