Sustainable Architecture Design: What’s it all About?

Sustainable Architecture Design: What’s it all About? from Commercial EPC from Synergy Property Services

By: Commercial EPC from Synergy Property Services  23/08/2010
Keywords: energy efficiency, Energy Assessor

 Energy Efficiency Regulations for Zero Carbon Homes
Housing Minister Grant Shapps recently re-affirmed his commitment for all new build homes to be zero-carbon from 2016. He also confirmed the work, carried out last year for the previous Government, in creating the 'Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard'.
Is the timescale realistic and what needs to happen to achieve this? Andrew Morphet of Synergy Property Services Ltd comments, “The first factor to consider is the definition of zero carbon. To me, zero means ‘nil’ but, in fact, the standard being aimed for is not nil – it’s 30%!”
Within the new energy efficiency regulations zero- carbon actually means a reduction of 70% from the 2006 permitted level of emission; still quite an ambitious target. To achieve this will not simply involve building homes with extra insulation; it will be about sustainable architecture designed for energy efficiency and fuel conservation – and it is complex!
Energy Assessment for Building Regulation Approval
From October 2010, energy assessment will have to be submitted as a part of the Building Regulation application. The new build design stage will involve integrating a combination of energy efficient systems and products which must perform as specified; not just in theory but in practice. Recent studies have shown that the energy performance of new homes when built often falls a long way short of that expected by the design stage energy assessments. This may be due to the modelling technique being wrong or the standard of build being poor, or both!
We need to ‘get it right’ every time. Today, it is very rare for new homes to have structural, fire risk or sound transmission problems, but when it comes to meeting building regulations for energy efficiency, so far, there has not been the same level of rigorous procedure. The house building industry needs to have a much clearer and consistent understanding of the ultimate goal and be given time to respond.
So, is the Methodology for Energy Assessments for New Build Inadequate?
Andrew continues, “The existing energy efficiency/carbon emission compliance tool – the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP, also used for producing energy performance certificates, EPCs) compares well with other modelling processes, especially for heating, but it could be better in, for example, energy use for water heating, new technologies and innovative design.”
Sustainable architecture designs for low energy homes could result in a reduction of air quality and day lighting, but as information on these is already entered into SAP calcs there is an opportunity for designers to have the energy efficiency/carbon emission information whilst also providing a check for other aspects of their design.
And what about Quality of Construction – Why is this a Concern?
“Synergy Property Services Ltd. has recently seen a good example of how things can go badly wrong on site. The Air Pressure test results from two different examples of the same house type, built on the same site, varied by almost 100%, despite being built by the same contractor. The issue was with build quality: We have to understand whether architects are creating un-buildable design stage details or whether there is a lack of construction skills and understanding to deliver the approved design.”
What needs to happen now?
Is sustainable architecture achievable?
Does the construction industry have an appetite for it?
The move towards the new building regulations for energy efficiency involving low energy/zero carbon homes requires architects, designers, builders, suppliers and regulators to change at a pace and scale never previously undertaken. Andrew believes there is an opportunity for clarity within the 2013 Building Regulations, but to achieve this at a time of financial constraint will require early warning and clear policy changes. “It is vital that all the major changes needed to the SAP assessments compliance tool are implemented within the next 12 months and then they be allowed to remain unchanged during the development of Part L of the 2016 Building Regulations.”
Many clients of Synergy Property Services Ltd. are showing an interest in changing the building products and systems they specify, but feel there are too many unknowns to be able to make sensible investment decisions regarding the development work and skills training that will inevitably be required. Progress is being made, but it’s slow, disjointed and lessons learned do not appear to be captured for future use.
Currently, energy use and carbon reduction is seen as a necessary step towards Building Regulations approval: It is often considered too late in the design stage or building process and, very often, results in unnecessary and expensive post-construction remedial works. For many it is proving unnecessarily difficult to meet the current energy assessment standards, never mind those needed for a 70% reduction.
It’s time to ‘get it right’; first time, every time, NOW!
Synergy Property Services Ltd: Design Stage Energy Assessments for New Build
If you’d like help in ‘getting it right’, give Andrew of Synergy Property Services Ltd a call direct on 0800 458 4127.
Alternatively for a quote or with any other enquiry please email us or use our simple contact form.
You can also sign up to the Synergy Property Services Ltd. Newsletter to keep up to date with new build energy assessments for building regulations and how they might affect you.

Keywords: Energy Assessor, energy efficiency

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