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New project aims to understand and improve building performance

With a significant portion of our energy consumption being attributed to buildings, changing the way the buildings are currently designed, constructed and operates is going to be an essential part of reaching CO2 targets.

That's why the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) is launching a new project that will tackle the issue for non-domestic buildings.

By examining industry approaches, tools and behaviours, the group hopes it will be able to find ways to maximise building performance in a way that will cut energy use and also improve other aspects for building users and the wider environment.

Research has indicated that there is currently a wide 'gap' between how a building is expected to perform versus how it actually performs once it is completed, occupied and maintained. In addition, whole-building performance is not always accurately predicted or communicated.

UK-GBC members plan to find out more about what companies are already doing to address the issue of building performance. Then, they will determine best practice and identify gaps and barriers that will need to be overcome across the industry.

Commenting on the launch of the Delivering Building Performance Project, Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of UK-GBC, said she  was "delighted" that work was underway. "Huge cost, carbon and productivity benefits can be gained through a closer focus on the performance of buildings as we design, construct and operate them," she explained.

She added that, following the deal at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), a project like this will demonstrate the UK industry's leadership and ambition.

Duncan Price, director of sustainability at consulting engineers BuroHappold, said that his firm's leading clients are looking beyond compliance because they recognise that building performance has benefits beyond reduced environmental impact. For example, it can boost productivity and reduce running costs. 

"This collaborative research will guide us all in how to achieve those benefits," he said.

Following the government scrapping the zero carbon new building policies, the UK-GBC Task Group focussed on how the industry can deliver better building performance and more reliable outcomes. One of its key questions is: how much of the carbon that the zero carbon policy would have saved could be saved by delivering more reliable building performance?

Mark Allen, technical director at Saint-Gobain UK said: "We occupy buildings for a considerable portion of time, which contributes significantly towards the climate change agenda and wider health, wellbeing and productivity in buildings."

He added that following the sponsorship of COP21, work on the UK-GBC task group will demonstrate a commitment to sustainable habitats for future generations.

"If we are to deliver a truly sustainable future, the industry must collaborate and share expertise to find robust solutions that enhance our habitat and our daily lives," he explained.

Emma Hines, sustainable construction manager at Tarmac, agrees. "We support the aims and ambitions of the task group as it seeks to develop a deeper understanding of how better building performance can be delivered," she said, adding that the research being undertaken will provide an opportunity to better understand the performance gap and what actions are needed to overcome it.

The project, which will report in late April 2016, will also highlight the importance of whole-life thinking in designing sustainability into the building envelope in order to deliver long-term benefits, she said.