A new, revised version of EcoHomes, has been launched. EcoHomes is the homes version of BREEAM. It provides an authoritative rating for new, converted or renovated homes, and covers both houses and apartments. It balances environmental performance with the need for a high quality of life and a safe and healthy internal environment. The issues assessed are grouped into seven categories: energy, water, pollution, materials, transport, ecology and land use, health and well-being.

EcoHomes 2006 includes tougher energy requirements to encourage carbon dioxide reductions and bring the scheme into line with the latest Part L of the Building Regulations.

The Government recently announced that all homes with English Partnerships or Housing Corporation funding must meet the new EcoHomes 2006 'Very Good' standard, as an interim measure until a strengthened Code for Sustainable Housing comes into effect later this year. In addition to raising energy credit thresholds to further encourage and reward CO2 reductions, energy savings will result from the new stipulation of A+ energy labels for refrigerators, freezers and cooling systems, and from rewards for low-energy lighting systems that exceed Building Regulation requirements.

Other changes designed to cut down carbon emissions include three new credits for renewable energy systems, and a regraded NOx credit that is easier for developments using small scale renewables to achieve. NOx - nitrogen oxides - is the generic term for a group of highly reactive gases, all of which contain nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts.

The primary man-made sources of NOx are motor vehicles, electric utilities, and other industrial, commercial, and residential sources that burn fuels. Among the revisions involving other issues are:

* a new credit for minimising flood risk

* recognition of responsible sourcing of non-timber materials (timber sourcing is already included, but has been modified to take account of increased use of modern methods or construction)

* credits for providing a Home User Guide (where construction site impacts are monitored), for signing up to the Considerate Constructors Scheme, and where the 'Secured by Design' award has been achieved.