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What We Can Learn From EcoBuild 2013

This week saw the annual return of EcoBuild and on Thursday I paid a visit, sitting in on some extremely thought-provoking conferences. One of particular interest was hosted by the Green Construction Board in the UKGBC Village, entitled ‘Closing the Performance Gap’.

8th March 2013    |     Kate Roche: Rolton Group

Paul King, CEO of the UKGBC and Green Construction Board member, introduced the session with some daunting facts, explaining to those present that if we are to meet our binding 2050 target, carbon emissions in the UK need to drop to levels last seen in 1850. As though a problem this magnitude were not enough, the reduction is to be achieved with three times as many people to cater for, all of whom have expectations of a 21st century life and the resource-hungry technologies which come with it.

Having reinforced the mountain still to climb, the discussion moved to the related issue of ‘the performance gap’, which is stalling any progress towards the fast-approaching deadline. The term refers to the difference between the projected energy use of a building as described by its Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and its typical energy use in reality; there can be as much as a 250% jump between these two figures, a fact most people are completely unaware of. Demonstrating with a sankey diagram, the hosts showed that inaccuracies creep in at every stage during construction, only to balloon further above estimates when the build is in operation. Owners and occupiers are then frequently left wondering why their energy bills are so high when measured against their EPC.

Putting forward a solution which integrates accurate design, operation and communication between all involved parties, the GCB argued that these worryingly high percentages could be significantly reduced if supported throughout the construction process and beyond. Having walked around the EcoBuild arena and seen an installation covered in signposts, one of which read ‘For every five houses built, a house worth of waste is created,’ it is clear that these spurring words must translate into action, and fast. Several speakers on the day talked about the importance of involving all members of a given project team at the very early stages of development, including the client, to eradicate misunderstandings and wasted energy both in terms of kilowatts and time. This seems a logical and necessary progression in an industry squeezed from all angles to give the best result for the lowest cost.

EcoBuild was an inspiring event, and it was heartening to see so many people with firm conviction of their role in pushing (sometimes dragging) the UK into a more sustainable 21st century. The Rolton Group is at the forefront of this movement, implementing sustainable design wherever possible in each project with which we are involved. This is because we understand that an integrated attitude to construction and energy reduction is one way which will assist in bringing the UK closer to meeting its towering commitments, whilst securing a better quality of life for those paying increasingly expensive bills.

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