Buildings performance gap can be solved, UKGBC finds

18th May 2016

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Diana Fitch

Collaboration between all players in the construction and property process is key to reducing the gap between expected and actual energy use of a new building, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) said.

The organisation switched the focus of its work on commercial buildings to operational performance after the government abandoned in July 2015 the target for all newly built non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon from 2019. It formed a taskforce last year to investigate why there tends to be a gap between the design performance of a building and what it achieved in practice.

The UKGBC found five factors contribute to building performance, which it describes in a report. These include:

  • A common aspiration. The industry does not have common language that would allow for comparisons between buildings. The research found that a small set of key performance indicators would provide encourage senior management engagement. The UKGBC proposes that the sector uses kWh per m2 to set building performance targets and measure performance.
  • Collaborative contracting. Separate supply chains dilute the responsibility for providing reliable performance throughout the building life cycle, research found. The UKGBC recommends that whatever procurement process is used to achieve better building performance, it should promote sharing of information, risks and responsibilities between parties.
  • Design for performance, not simply for compliance. The research found that performance improves when designers aim for high standards rather than to just comply with building regulations. UKGBC also said there is a need for a prediction or assessment of building performance once a target is set.
  • Monitoring and feedback. Links need to be made between the operational facilities management and design teams, and between facilities staff and building occupiers, the UKGBC recommended. Occupiers should be trained in how to use the building features so they are less likely to try to override automatic systems.
  • Improved knowledge. All sections of the building process have a role, and there are also collaborative elements where improved knowledge is required across the whole buildings process, the research found. Enhanced understanding of the role of each party would enable more meaningful conversations, UKGBC said.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive officer of the UKGBC, said: ‘The gap between the design intent of buildings and their performance in operation is significant.

‘This means that, as an industry, we’re not only failing to manage our carbon emissions, but we’re also failing to manage our operating costs and we’re compromising our ability to deliver other positive outcomes such as health, wellbeing and productivity for occupiers.’

The gap can be reduced using existing tools and simplified processes, and the main challenge is the willingness of the industry to change, she added.


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