New toolkit helps housebuilders beat energy ‘performance gap’ in new homes

Housebuilders in the UK are being offered a new toolkit to improve the energy performance of new homes.

The Building Energy Performance Improvement Toolkit (BEPIT) aims to address the fact that newly built homes often fail to achieve their design levels of energy performance. During the construction process, the insulation and air-tightness become compromised and many new homes end up with a 50% gap between predicted and measured energy performance.

BEPIT is the result of a four-year research project led by Bioregional, an organisation that partners with businesses to deliver sustainability improvements. It was backed by £1.3m of funding from the UK Government’s innovation agency Innovate UK.

The study examined the energy performance gap issue from design through procurement of building materials and then through all of the construction stages to completion, building up a large database of photographs and technical details.

As part of the study, on-site researchers spent thousands of hours investigating what happens during a real-life build to compromise energy performance, liaising with developers, contractors and sub-contractors.

The key conclusion of the research was that “the devil is in the detail” – a collection of minor problems throughout the construction process build up into one big problem of poor energy performance.

The research was used to create a practical, affordable and effective approach to ensuring that ‘as built’ matches ‘as designed’.

BEPIT combines detailed learning materials with in-depth facilitation by an expert through each stage of the housebuilding project – design, procurement and construction. The toolkit sets out a plan for working in detail with all of the key players involved in the housing project, to alert them to the various problems at the right time and help to overcome them throughout the construction process.

According to Bioregional, initial tests have shown “highly encouraging” results, with a 40% improvement in air-tightness between the first and second phases of construction. Further tests are needed to prove BEPIT’s effectiveness in improving insulation performance, with less heat leaking out through the building fabric.

Engineering consultancy Cundall welcomed the launch of the toolkit. Julian Sutherland, the firm’s building services partner, said: “With the UK finally about to start tackling its chronic housing shortage, it’s vital that we address energy performance issues before we start on a project of such huge strategic significance. The fact that many newly built homes exhibit a 50% gap in predicted and measured performance shows how urgently we need the BEPIT toolkit.

“It is great to see a new service emerge that tackles the thorny issue of construction stage knowledge and skills, leading to better and more reliable building performance. The BEPIT recommendations will lead to major improvements in the performance of new builds, leading to lower energy bills for owners, smaller impact on the environment and will also protect the reputation of the construction industry by providing a clear and measurable set of best practices for success.”

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