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Better buildings start at homeJune 2016

Written by Dr Sarah Birchall, Sustainability Engineer, BSRIA Sustainable Construction Group

Innovate UK project – Informing the development of a ‘framework’ for future energy efficient residential development.

The term ‘performance gap’, describing the gap between the intended and actual performance of buildings in terms of energy use and comfort, is heard more and more these days. This is partly due to the growing evidence gathered by organisations like the Zero Carbon Hub and the findings from research and other projects where post-occupancy monitoring and evaluation have been conducted. The Innovate results from the recently completed four year Building Performance Evaluation programme have now been published and revealed that for the domestic buildings monitored and evaluated, once occupied the average total carbon emissions was 2.6 times higher than the average design estimate.

Figure 1. The five work packages of the project

The housing industry appears to suffer from a fragmented approach to project conception, execution and delivery, resulting in a project that is not consistent with design intent and one which suffers from this ‘performance gap’. For homes to be delivered successfully, critical features need to be identified, their implications understood, integrated and communicated from early concept stages, all the way through to delivery and into operation and beyond. It shouldn’t just stop at the handover stage when the residents are given the keys and move into their new homes. This sets the context for a one year Innovate UK funded feasibility study, which started at the end of 2015. The aim of this study is to inform the development of a ‘framework’ that can be applied to the delivery of energy efficient homes with greater attention on operational performance. To help track the process, the study is considering the use of metrics/Key Performance Indicators to help project teams evaluate and track the feasibility, buildability, delivery, commissioning, handover and management of energy efficient homes once they are occupied. This one year project is being led by BSRIA and involves three other partners – Passivhaus Trust, Good Homes Alliance with access to their membership base, and Willmott Dixon.

There are standards and ‘frameworks’ established to help with the effective delivery of buildings. The benefits and potential limitations of these have been used to inform the development of this project:

Figure 2. Critical factors for quality delivery and in-use

1) The Passivhaus method sets a clear set of requirements in terms of information, coordination and skills through all the stages of project procurement and delivery, homes built to this standard however represent a relatively small proportion of the total built in the UK.

2) BSRIA’s Soft Landings provides a framework to ensure project targets aren’t compromised by taking into account any pitfalls through project delivery, but this has been applied predominantly in non-domestic buildings so far.

3) Government Soft Landings (GSL) is similar to Soft Landings but differs in the use of metrics to demonstrate project outcomes. In GSL, targets related to the Social, Economic and Environmental outcomes are set.

The project is being tackled over five work packages (WP).

The first, ‘preparation’ stage included a literature review of the common issues contributing to the performance gap.

This review identified a number of issues and themes occurring at all project stages, which are potentially contributing to the performance gap. Many of these issues were linked to quality – both in the delivery and occupied stages.

This led onto the thinking of whether these key themes and issues could be addressed using a framework that includes gateways at key stages; general and/or success criteria, project specific metrics and KPIs; and activities or a procedure. Could metrics be used as a way introducing points in the project where there is an assessment to check the project is in line with the expectations? This helped formulate the draft outline ‘framework’.

Consultation is a key part of this project and allows the project team to capture feedback and views on an ‘outline’ framework and the mechanisms by which this may be incorporated by the industry to ensure the study findings are robust and representative of the housing industry. Thus far there have been two workshops. At these sessions the implementation, incentives, use of project specific metrics and KPIs were all open for discussion. The feedback from these have been very useful for trying to understand the implementation issues associated with the adoption of a ‘framework’.

It is important to remember this is a feasibility study and aims to inform the development of a ‘framework’. To enable this, in the next stage of the project, case studies will be reviewed and the outline ‘framework’ will be evaluated against them in a retrospective manner. This evaluation will help identify how the outline ‘framework’ could be implemented and how it could be revised and developed further. A possible finding from this project may well be that a ‘framework’ is only suitable to certain types of projects, development and/or procurement types.

BSRIA and the other project partners are currently in the process of gathering case studies and undertaking the reviews. The final stage of the project will be a workshop in September/October 2016, where the findings from the project will be presented. We are interested to hear about what your views on the project and what features a ‘framework’ like this should incorporate? Please contact Sarah Birchall at BSRIA using if you have any comments, if you can offer a case study or would like to be involved in further consultation for this project.

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