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  • Wake up and smell the coffee! How buildings need to change

Wake up and smell the coffee! How buildings need to change

Wake up and smell the coffee! Says George Martin, chief executive of the Building Performance Network. There is an urgent need to change the way homes are procured and specified. Here's what the main issues and opportunities are to build better homes that are fit for the future.

The UK is set to deliver 300,000 homes per year over the next 10 years. What are the main issues around building performance that need addressing to make sure these homes are fit for the future?

There are a number of things to highlight.

  1. Understand what we mean by ‘performance’. For the Building Performance Network performance is not just about energy and carbon but includes, internal air quality; acoustics, lighting; thermal comfort; fire protection and the health and well being of occupants.
  2. A change to the building regulations so that they are performance (in use) based. This is the main campaign for the Building Performance Network
  3. Low energy, low carbon and hence low energy bills and in the longer term, improved outdoor air quality.
  4. Resilience and adaptation to climate change also needs to be taken into account.
  5. An uprating of the skills of everyone involved in the delivery of homes, most especially the teams working on sites. Closely linked to this is the need for contractors to have an in house workforce so that the training and learning is captured and retained.
  6. Education and awareness training for local authority staff and local councillors.
  7. Access to a resource for building professionals to enable them to understand what building performance data has been collected and how better to understand it.  This is the subject of a current research project being undertaken by Oxford Brooks on behalf of the Building Performance Network.
  8. An accreditation process for building performance evaluators.
  9. An intense marketing and awareness campaign to ensure that consumers understand that the key issues for homes are more than location, location, location.

Where do you see the biggest potential for a positive change in delivery of better homes?

  1. A change in building regulations from the current compliance with a design standard to a performance in use standard.
  2. A culture change in the construction sector where the current business model is basically to plan, design, build, sort the defects and then bugger off with little or no interest in how the homes perform.
  3. The development of a performance in use Quality Mark.
  4. Greater awareness of house owners of the benefits of performance in use.  

What role does building fabric and choice of materials play when it comes to building performance?

The role of building fabric and the choice of materials is critical to the performance of the home. Materials can and will have an effect on energy efficiency, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, moisture control i.e. breathability and acoustics.

What are your recommendations to specifiers to ensure their projects deliver on intended performance?

  1. Wake up and smell the coffee – there is an urgent need to change the way homes are procured and specified.
  2. The term “Quality’ homes needs to be redefined and there is need for a robust Quality Mark.
  3. Homes should be marketed on the basis of whole life costs and not just the capital cost of purchase.
  4. Performance based procurement is critical and here of course Passivhaus is one good method for achieving three important criteria, low energy bills, fresh air and comfort – warm in winter, cool in summer and no draughts


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