Recticel Insulation explains how UK homes often don’t meet expected performance levels, and how teamwork and attention to detail can overcome that.
To find out more about specifying and installing insulation correctly, contact Recticel’s technical services helpdesk on 0800 085 4079, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Studies examining differences between the energy efficiency of buildings ‘as designed’ and the actual ‘as-built’ performance have shown that, in extreme cases, heat loss is up to three times greater than anticipated. This is known as the performance gap, and it is important to understand the benefits of being aware of it.
Homes are sold based on Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), which are now quoted in estate agents’ adverts. Buyers place trust in everybody involved in the home building and buying process that information like this is accurate. New homes are expected to comply with current building regulations and perform accordingly, as are extensions or renovations.
On the flip side, if you undertake a home extension or retrofit project, you expect it to be done to the best possible standard. Quantifying the performance of completed building work is difficult, even more so for a home improvement since it is not subject to the same level of assessment as a new build. Even if the level of comfort doesn’t meet expectation, many people are unwilling to raise the issue for fear of the disruption and stress it will cause.
All the more reason, then, to ensure things are right first time. It is in the interests of us all to expect and achieve better performing buildings. As detailed elsewhere in this blog, fabric first concentrates on insulation, thermal bridging and airtightness, and is the best way to achieve consistent long-term performance. It provides energy efficiency measures that require no upkeep or maintenance, and it is the most effective way to close the performance gap.
With some quality assurance at design and construction stage, a real difference can be seen in occupant comfort and the cost of running buildings. Better communication and a sense of collective responsibility can ensure that projects are carried out correctly and we all benefit from each other’s expertise: we all have a role to play in being part of the solution.
How we live in a building is as important as the building itself. Just as the way one person drives a car changes how it performs compared to someone else driving it, so being more careful about the way we use energy is to the benefit of a building’s performance. But that doesn’t mean construction quality can be ignored. Healthy, comfortable and thermally efficient construction should be standard – not ‘added value’.
If actual energy consumption is greater than calculated at design stage, then CO2 emissions will also be higher than predicted. The UK’s building stock accounts for half of the country’s total emissions, so taking steps to address the performance gap will contribute to meeting climate change targets. And even if the realities don’t appeal to our conscience or sense of responsibility to future generations, the effect will be felt by our wallets. Fuel poverty is a very real problem for many homeowners, and reliance on imported energy will only raise prices further.
In future, regulations might be based on measured as-built performance; what is achieved rather than what should be achieved. That will take time to implement, and it’s time that we don’t have. Climate change is happening and the impacts are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”. Statistics show that CO2 emissions, global temperatures, average sea levels and the cost of energy are all rising, resulting in environmental, economic and social impacts globally.