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We were hugely encouraged by the attendance at last week’s Faculty and would like to thank everyone again for joining us and for your patience with the spatial availability! This Faculty is number 10 in our series and more popular than ever, surprising as we had been worried that the subject matter would perhaps fail to draw much interest. We were wrong!

In preparing the content the aim was to condense the vast amount of information into a digestible half day seminar. At the same time we aimed to identify opportunities for our customers in helping to address the requirements, add value. As a secondary objective we wanted to highlight efficiencies of using the Virtual Environment suite.

Naghman and I reviewed the literature including design guides, technical memoranda, applications manuals, regulatory and voluntary requirements for the 4 main building types selected – Educational, Commercial, Healthcare and Retail.

Not surprisingly the two main areas of literature pertain to Education and Healthcare and we noted a marked difference in the ‘structure’ of the information. Healthcare is organised with an overarching set of documents driving improvement forward whereas the schools information was a bit disjointed. Having said that the Education Funding Agency has provided an overarching set of requirements upon which funding depends. However, whilst the lighting design guidance relevant for all schools has been updated to reflect the EFA requirements, the ventilation, thermal comfort and IAQ has not.

As an addendum to this there is a working group, including IES, currently looking at updating Building Bulletin 101, the EFA requirements form part of this discussion. The timeframe is as yet undecided. If the EFA requirements are extended to all new schools and major refurbishment and adopted as standard this might help to drive improvement over time.

A common theme within the EFA requirements and the Healthcare standards is Performance In Use (PIU) – the move away from ticking Design Criteria boxes during design to closing the loop between design and operation. Something very close to our heart!

As always the Faculty provided a good opportunity for like-minded individuals to get together and share ideas, we have attempted to capture some of the discussion points below;

  • Politics get in the way of green/sustainability/energy conservation agenda, with the move away from the Green Deal and zero carbon targets for domestic dwellings. Incremental improvements in Building Regulations and the uncertainty this creates is an obstacle to innovation. If developers had longer term goals to achieve (e.g. zero carbon non-domestic target by 2019) they could build that into their investment portfolios and confidently innovate to deliver the targets over time. If they do not know which way things are going to go they are reluctant to invest in innovation which keeps the cost of innovation elevated.
  • Despite the move away from zero carbon in the UK there is a European Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU EPBD recast) for near zero energy public buildings from Jan 2019 onwards and that all new buildings are near zero-energy from January 2021. http://www.epbd-ca.eu/themes/nearly-zero-energy
  • Energy centres are commonplace in German cities which makes it easier for new developments to connect thereby taking advantage of the efficiencies these can offer. The London Plan is driving this and as a result we see more examples of district schemes – Kings Cross, Olympic Park and Crystal Palace amongst many others. This is the level of infrastructure and the sort of long term strategy required to really make a difference.
  • An audience member remarked that the design guidance for buildings is over complicated and how can we expect to measure this in reality once the building is occupied. Perhaps if we keep the requirements achievable and the metrics simple it would motivate building owners and their designers to consider the Performance In Use aspects more often. As it is it’s a costly and somewhat complex exercise.
  • Some of our audience claimed that they are being asked for TM54 assessments and Soft Landings on projects other than schools, which indicates perhaps an enlightened client.

We also had a few questions related to VE capability and application;

  • Q: Can the Priority Schools Building Programme Climate Based Daylight Modelling requirements be adequately demonstrated using Radiance despite the fact that blinds are not represented in Radiance?
  • A: Our view is that the correct approach is to assess the design first without blinds to get the baseline level of UDI performance. It is reasonable to assume that whenever the 3000 lux threshold is exceeded blinds or similar would be in operation to mitigate glare.Having said that we are looking to develop this capability and reduce the calculation time. We will also look into producing a Schools Navigator which pulls all of the different requirements into one place.
  • Q: Questions were raised about the implementation and applicability of ApHVAC.
  • A: We are seeing an increase in interest and use of ApHVAC in the UK, often in relation to TM54 and/or Soft Landings. My recommendation would be to have another look at the module. This auto size demo video from 2 years ago which suggests that robust sizing of plant can be carried out early in the design process. If you have questions or would like a demo please get in touch.

Due to the success of this Faculty we have decided to take the event to Glasgow on Tuesday 17th November so I look forward to seeing some of you there. You can get your free tickets here: http://ow.ly/TLsGC

Got a design guidance question you’d like to ask Sarah? Use the comments section below.


Part L: The devil is in the detail

Posted: August 8, 2013 by , Category:Building Regulations

Written by Edwina Cramp, our head of new product communication, the following post was published on the 2degrees Network in response to the Part L updates that were announced last week. You can connect with Edwina on 2Degrees here.

The government has unveiled the long-awaited changes to Part L of the Building Regulations, covering the energy efficiency of new non-domestic buildings and homes. But there’s still some way to go.

There have been plenty of amusing comments on the length of time we’ve waited for the announcement on the update to Part L of the Building Regulations.

From the Twittersphere we had the customary, “It’s been an L of a wait.”; Building magazine summed it up with “after a gestation period worthy of a blue whale”; and the Association for the Conservation of Energy weighed in with its observation that it was the “length of an elephant’s pregnancy for the announcement the size of a mouse.”

But in all seriousness, after such a long wait what are the implications for the industry. Well the devil is in the detail as they say, and that is exactly what we are missing.

Way back in January 2012 when the Government consulted on this – the proposals we were asked to consider included two options a 20% reduction and an 11% reduction with outline plans on related changes to the ‘notional building’. What we got was a 9% reduction, which is a significant deviation and leaves the industry even more in the dark than before, as no outline ‘notional building’ plans relating to this exist. The Approved Documents and impact assessment, which are due later this summer, will shed light but there is nothing currently existing which we can confidently to refer to.

Hence, as software providers we can’t even start to assess what will need to be done to comply, or even start to advise our customers as we have done in the past – there is just not the outline information we have had in the past available.

The complete lack of communication from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) with us and other software providers, since consultation on approval charges back in July 2012, means there is a significant worry it could be a real push to get the dynamic simulation software that is used on most major large commercial buildings, ready in time. The Part L software industry is still waiting the results of this separate consultation.

The details of any new ‘notional building’ will have an impact as a whole, as well as on specifics related to different building or construction types. For example, will any changes be made that encourages the use of naturally ventilated buildings? As it stands meeting a 9% reduction in this instance would be onerous and could further push people towards the use of air conditioning – an already well-recognized side effect of the 2006 regulation framework.

Personally for me these changes should be a time to reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t, perhaps it’s time we looked again at how we are approaching the whole topic. It’s no secret that compliance is considered in many quarters to be just a tick box exercise. The practice of “designing” a building to get the best EPC rating or Part L pass is not uncommon – and may sound like the right approach – but when you consider that what is best for compliance is frequently not best for the real building you hit an issue.

As we hit with this proposed amendment a 51% reduction on emissions rates since 2002, we are half way to zero carbon, and what is becoming apparent is that the closer you get to zero carbon the bigger the divergence between the compliance energy use calculation and that of the real building.

For example, within a supermarket the notional building predicts that heating is the dominant load, but in real life metered data shows that refrigeration, lighting and process equipment are dominant. This means that if you “design” for Part L you will inadvertently focus on the less significant area of heating, ignoring real money and energy savings which can be made elsewhere.

Compliance is making the performance gap conundrum even more complex and confusing by producing official benchmarks of energy use which are different even from the predicted energy use of the building at design, let alone the building in operation. There are essential now three models of the building in play – a compliance one, a design one and an operational one!

So where do we go from here? The answer has to be. Await the detail, hope it comes quickly and reassess and respond as quickly as possible. Good luck to us all.

Gone are the days when energy data for private buildings was, well, private — at least in some cities.

Mandatory policies regarding the release of energy data for the private sector are becoming more and more popular. New York City is the first to release its results consisting of 2,065 large commercial properties. This report is part of New York’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, which focuses on energy efficiency in the city’s commercial buildings. According to EnvironmentalLeader.com, this plan consists of four different regulations, one of which is Local Law 84 requiring commercial buildings to benchmark their water and energy use. The data collected also goes towards the PlaNYC goal of reducing citywide carbon emissions.

This is the first time any city, state or county has released this kind of information, and I’m taking it as a step in the right direction. The report contains interesting information which may have us rethinking the types of spaces that should focus on energy efficiency.

The data displays information on energy usage per square foot, greenhouse gas emissions, water usage per square foot, and more. The New York City Local Law 84 Benchmarking report shows that large buildings are responsible for 45 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions. By monitoring energy use, that number can be reduced.

So what can we take away from this? New York is beginning to realize that it is crucial to improve existing buildings, not just new ones. Energy modeling can have a hand in improving both. While the larger buildings typically have more financial resources to take on energy upgrades, modeling can assist smaller buildings for a fairly low cost, allowing building owners to hone in on specific factors and improvements such as ventilation, solar heat gain and even building envelope.

Focusing on these structures will have a large impact on the city according to the New York City Local Law 84 Benchmarking Report, which states that if all inefficient large buildings were brought up just to the median energy use intensity in their category, NYC inhabitants would reduce their energy consumption by 18 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. And that’s just by doing the minimum!

How Green is the Desert?

Posted: August 19, 2009 by , Category:Building Regulations

Further to Roger’s blog which provided an overview of green building regulatory schemes and current developments in the Australian market I thought I’d provide a similar update from a Middle East perspective.

Historically the Middle East has lagged the Western world in terms of green building initiatives and it has been normal practice for design teams based in the region to simply adopt established Western schemes such as LEED & BREEAM in order to comply with local regulatory requirements. These local regulatory building code requirements themselves are often very vague and open to manipulation, as are the green building rating schemes themselves since they were never written with the Middle East climate and it’s unique economy in mind.

Given the constraints involved in trying to make Western designed schemes fit a unique and very different climate and economy it is exciting to see the recent developments in LEED 2009, BREEAM Gulf and Estidama, all of which aim to address the challenges involved when using the more dated and rigid rating schemes.

The LEED 2009 requirements have changed significantly with an increased emphasis on sustainable sites, water and energy efficiency – all of which spell good news for the Middle East region by increasing a project’s LEED potential. BREEAM Gulf differs from it’s UK counterpart in that it places more emphasis on mixed-use developments and treats the building as a whole rather than separate use entities. This approach reflects the unique construction market in the Gulf region where mixed-use developments are standard practice.

camel desert

One of the most exciting developments in the Middle East region to date is the introduction of a new initiative called Estidama (‘sustainability’ in Arabic) in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, UAE. Currently in development by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council the Estidama initiative is the first of it’s kind in the region and aims to assist in the creation of more sustainable communities and cities.

What is interesting to see is Estidama’s unique approach in addressing the challenges faced in sustainable construction and development and just how much the scheme differs from it’s US and UK counterparts, LEED and BREEAM. The main difference with the Estidama initiative is that in essence it is not really a program or a rating system at all, but a high-level aspiration to achieve a more sustainable way of living by striking a balance between environmental, economic, cultural and social issues.

The ‘Pearl Rating Method’ is embedded within the Estidama initiative and this has more in common with the standard US and UK green building rating schemes. The Pearl Rating Method forms part of the local regulatory building code requirements and rates a building on a scale of 1-5 Pearls, but it is important to note that the Estidama scheme itself is much more than a simple building rating tool.

Due to the current economic crisis across the globe the construction sector in the Middle East has been hit hard and things have certainly slowed down somewhat in the last eight or months or so. But given the recent and ongoing developments in the three main rating schemes in use across the region one thing looks certain, whenever the market does pick up again it will be an exciting time with sustainability higher on developer’s agendas than it ever was before.


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