Zero Carbon – Mind The Gap Between Design And Real World Performance

The UK is committed to achieving net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. Given the enormous task of retrofitting existing buildings to net zero standards, it’s vital that we don’t add to the burden. New buildings, whether for homes, education, healthcare or commercial use should be designed to deliver the highest levels of energy efficiency.

This brings us to an issue that the industry has grappled with for years: the gap between design levels of energy consumption and what happens in the real world when the building is in service. This gap has to be eliminated to deliver zero carbon performance. Among other things, this means having a more tightly integrated design and production process.

What Causes the Performance Gap?

Some of the energy performance gap can be put down to flawed assumptions about how building users will behave. There’s also inconsistent modelling of unregulated sources of energy consumption such as server rooms, external lighting and small loads from individual devices.

Many other causes lie in the design and construction processes. There is a list of factors that can push theoretical and real energy performance further apart. These include:

  • Misunderstandings and poor communication between stakeholders.
  • Insufficient quality control in the construction process.
  • Incorrect assumptions about the performance of components and materials.
  • Inconsistencies in u value and thermal bridging calculations.
  • Lack of appreciation of what is and isn’t buildable.
  • Outdated site practices.

Worksite activities account for a large part of the performance gap. Factors here include material substitutions, poor installation of the fabric and insulating materials, and insufficiently tight tolerances.

Building as Designed Closes the Gap

‘Building as designed’ is very much the mantra at Innovaré. The collaborative digital design process feeds directly into our computer-controlled manufacturing environment. Creating the structure onsite is simply a matter of assembling precision-made large format panels that have the desired thermal performance levels built-in.

The structure is airtight with minimal thermal bridging losses. There’s also no need to rework or modify the panels after they are delivered. The tightly integrated digital design and manufacturing process eliminates many of the factors that cause the energy performance gap.

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