First ‘real world’ test results for a new toolkit for housebuilders show that it can achieve major improvements in tackling the energy performance gap in new homes
The ‘energy performance gap’ – the gap between the energy efficiency levels new homes are designed to achieve, and what they actually manage – is a well-known issue in the industry. With rising energy prices and an urgent need to cut carbon emissions, it’s a serious problem.
One of the challenges is that most new-build homes in the UK are delivered by large housebuilders using ‘design and build’ contracts. This means a central contractor manages a host of subcontractors that deliver different parts of a building. So you end up with projects made up of temporary teams of skilled tradespeople working on their own designs - each with a different set of difficulties.
At the end of a project, everyone disbands. This makes it very hard to extract learning and apply it to the next project. Knowledge largely sits with individuals and, often, decisions are made without the best person present. On top of this, construction requires quick decisions with priorities firmly on programme, cost and compliance. Can you guess where energy performance ranks on this list?
I’ve just spent the past four years onsite at a large housebuilding project in Oxfordshire as part of a research project with five partners (funded by Innovate UK) to determine how to close the gap. From this we've developed the Building energy performance improvement toolkit (BEPIT).
The bad news is, there’s no silver bullet to fixing the problem. The performance gap consists of multiple, frequently occurring, minor issues that occur through the design and build process.
The good news: we found that it is possible to significantly close the gap. For example, we’ve found that improved airtightness levels of 40% are possible.
The secret to tackling all the different clusters of issues that occur is all about having the right conversations with the right people, at the right time – throughout design, build and operation.
Here are some of my tips on what works:
This blog was originally published on UKGBC on 31 May 2017
Learn more about the BEPIT toolkit.