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4 Top Tips in Embracing The Changes of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Landscape

It was my pleasure to deliver a CPD seminar to an award winning, London based, architects practice. Over half of the 30 strong team of architects attended the session and increased their knowledge and understanding of MEES or Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards ahead of its introduction in April 2018.

There was also a lively discussion on the practicalities of producing effective energy efficiency calculations and BREEAM evidence at the design stage.

The following important issues arose and I want to share them with you:

  • Who is responsible for carrying out the energy efficiency and assessments?
  • At what stage of the design and build is this established and implemented?
  • How does the contractor prove that they have followed the thermal brief on the upgrade?
  • How to avoid the pitfalls of entering into a guessing game at the BREEAM, (pronounced ‘bream ‘like the fish, in case you were always wondering), Design Stage?

The lessons learnt from the coal face were:

  1. The architect informs the client from the outset that an Energy and Sustainability Consultant must be appointed to work with the design team to achieve the mandatory energy and sustainability compliance that compliments the design and client’s vision or requirements. It is a separate service to that of the Architect.
  2. The time to start is NOW. At the planning stage a submitted energy assessment and sustainability statement, daylight and sunlight assessment and BREEAM pre-assessment will demonstrate to the council that your client is serious about the environment which is a top priority for new developments, change of use, and renovations with extensions. The local authority planners will want to know EXACTLY how the project proposes to reduce its carbon emissions and reduce them in accordance with the local authority planning policy, London Plan Policy or the National Policy on climate change and the conservation of fuel and power. This includes the consideration of renewable technologies and calculations demonstrating how they will benefit the energy efficiency and sustainability of the scheme.
  3. Establish a steady flow of communication between the client, the design team and the contractor once they have been appointed. Once appointed, a swift provision, of a clear and concise energy efficiency strategy summary for the contractor will keep the energy efficiency of project on track. The details of this summary are extracted from design stage energy efficiency calculations. It clearly and simply outlines the U-values, i.e. insulation and wall build ups for the external walls, floors, roof, windows and doors together with the heating type and specification of renewable technology. It enables the contractor to easily know what is required. It also provides accountability. Then compliance for building control sign off can be easily proved resulting in the swift delivery of that all important EPC.
  4. It is true that the BREEAM assessor will be needing the answers to very specific questions on materials for the Design Stage Assessment. It may seem a ludicrous ask when the project has not even gone out to tender yet. However, BRE set the standards for the details of mandatory issues and they cannot be avoided.

It is the type of information that is difficult to obtain from the contractor when they are on site and dealing with dozens of other pressing construction matters. Ignoring the issue, which is all too common, often results in a staggered process of the design stage submission to BRE who will impose a fine of £950 if the design stage submissions takes more than six months.

What if these questions and those of the energy efficiency compliance were included in the tender package when the contractor is motivated to provide the required information? A calculated and informed approximation is sufficient at the design stage. Also, it allows the contractor to know exactly what is required and can factor in the correct costs, another important item for any project.

By Monique Simons, Managing Director of EAL Consult.

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