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The Performance Gap - Reducing Carbon Emissions

Why does it matter?

While new domestic and non-domestic building may appear to meet thermal regulations on paper, the intended level of efficiency is not met once they become occupied. Building managers and occupiers trust the professionals they engage to deliver a building of the required standard, only to find that the performance level hits them where they least want it – in their pockets. Indeed, fuel poverty is a very real problem for many homeowners.

In March 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report outlining the effects of climate change on individuals and society. It argued that the impacts of it 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. These bring environmental, economic and social impacts, the results of which will only get worse if the status quo is maintained.

It is in the interests of us all, therefore, to expect and achieve better performing buildings. And make no mistake: this is not an issue confined to just architects, or just contractors, or just manufacturers, or just Building Control Officers, or just end users. We all need to work together in a drive to meet the energy use targets we all thought we were meeting!

What is being done about it?

Different organisations have focussed on the problem, reaching a broad consensus on the challenges facing the construction industry as a whole. The most notable, perhaps, is the Zero Carbon Hub http://www.zerocarbonhub.org/ , a non-profit organisation established in 2008 to look at housing and advise the government on how best to address the issues of the performance gap.

The ultimate aim was to establish a means by which ‘zero carbon’ homes could be delivered in England by 2016, though the definition of zero carbon has always been controversial… That aside, in July 2014 the Zero Carbon Hub released their ‘End of Term Report’. It featured recommendations for the government, but it also featured recommendations for the industry regarding ‘as designed’ compared to ‘as built’.


-          Performance assessment: creating new testing and measurement techniques to ensure that product performance and building performance is accurately demonstrated.

-          Skills and knowledge: improve training and understanding of industry professionals, especially through the ongoing monitoring of completed buildings.

-          Construction details: develop a package of details for major junctions and systems in the building fabric, so as to provide ‘assured’ performance.

-          Evidence gathering: continue gathering evidence and providing feedback to accelerate performance across all professions.


What part can Recticel Insulation play? 

As a manufacturer, Recticel can advise on the theoretical performance of a building element http://www.recticelinsulation.co.uk/tech-centre/u-values/  using its products, but has little control over how those products are used on site. We rely on contractors and site supervisors to ensure the good workmanship that is vital to ensuring products perform as intended, and so we are committed to providing more information and improving knowledge about the fixing of our boards.

More immediately, however, insulation clearly has the biggest role to play in improving the thermal performance of buildings. Adopting a fabric first approach http://www.recticelinsulation.co.uk/tech-centre/fabric-first/ is an essential part of the ‘fit and forget’ philosophy that building owners will appreciate without even realising it – energy efficiency is built in through the specification of the building fabric and will last for the lifetime of the property, without needing maintenance or upgrade.

Continuity of insulation, addressing thermal bridging and achieving good airtightness are all key points in the design and construction and process. Given appropriate consideration through improved levels of knowledge, the Building Regulation requirements for thermal performance can be meant and those performance levels can be translated to the finished property.

We offer a RIBA CPD-accredited training presentation on the Performance Gap, with more detail on the causes of it and a look at solutions that we can all adopt today to begin achieving better buildings. This includes detail on the 2013/2014 England and Wales Part L Building Regulations, and where to start in adopting a fabric first approach, including addressing thermal bridging. To enquire about booking a seminar, visit the RIBA CPD website. http://www.ribacpd.com/recticel-insulation-products/12624/overview/#294835