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Insulation pioneer backs Zero Carbon Hub’s call for a cultural shift

The Zero Carbon Hub says a major cultural shift within the construction industry is vital if we are to achieve the 2020 ambition of ensuring 90% of new builds meet or exceed their designed energy performance. Its ‘Closing the gap between design and as built performance’ report cites key steps which must be taken to address the huge gulf, which currently exists between design and as-built energy performance.

Without taking action to narrow or eliminate this gap the 2016 zero carbon target is simply not going to be achieved. The report, the result of 18 months’ research and study of 21 new build developments, states: “A pan-industry shift in focus is required to create the necessary cultural change to address the issues identified.  The scale of change in business practice envisaged within the tight timeframe of the '2020 Ambition will only be possible if there are clear drivers to underpin it.”

The first of these drivers is “energy literacy” - improving understanding across the whole gamut of industry professionals - clients, planners, designers, architects, engineers, SAP assessors, energy modellers, developers, contractors, procurers, site managers, materials suppliers, operatives, commissioners, testers, verifiers, values and insurance bodies. The report continues: “Across the whole construction industry there is limited understanding of as-built energy performance and the existence of the performance gap. Consequently, there is an urgent need to emphasise energy performance issues in training of new entrants and to provide additional training and Continuing Professional Development for existing members of the industry.”

The Zero Carbon Hub identifies a number of reasons for the discrepancy between the designed and as-built performance of buildings and holds all professionals involved in the construction process responsible for the performance gap.  These include issues such as planning teams being unaware of the impact of early stage decisions on the energy performance of a building, incorrect integration of building fabric and services, U-value calculations not reflecting real life and test methodologies being inconsistently applied. It adds that new testing methods reflecting real life performance within a system need to be introduced. This is actually something which Actis has been doing for many years.

In fact, its latest range has been dual tested using both lab and in situ methods to ensure the materials behave as predicted when used in real life scenarios and subjected to range of climatic conditions including wind, humidity and solar effects. The July 2014 end of term report summarising the Zero Carbon Hub’s work urges industry to take action and provide robust answers to address the deficit within the three cross-cutting themes knowledge and skills, communication and responsibility.

Manufacturers in particular are under scrutiny when it comes to demonstrating as-built performance and I believe the report will act as a spur to encourage innovation within the industry. Closing the performance gap can be achieved by providing trusted products within a building system, robust testing of materials and an open culture of discussion and collaboration between all professionals involved in a construction project.

Actis is determined to play a part and has just launched a CPD training module on how to tackle the performance gap with reflective insulation, which is aimed at architects, engineers, SAP assessors, specifiers, building control officers, developers, procurers, site managers and operatives. The module, which has just been certified by the Construction CPD Certification Service, looks at why the performance gap exists, evidence of its existence through research by bodies such as Glasgow Caledonian University and BBA, the effects of external factors on the fabric efficiency of a building, and the impact of part L which place a good deal of emphasis on air tightness and the impact of thermal bridging. By Thomas Wiedmer, architect and technical manager for pioneering insulation company Actis.  ACTIS logo white on grey with outline 0309       For more information, visit  www.insulation-actis.com  

Thomas Wiedmer- Guest Blog

Author: Thomas Wiedmer- Guest Blog

This article was published by Thomas Wiedmer- Guest Blog on 27.10.2014.