RE:FIT Extension a Positive Step for Public Sector Buildings
The recent developments on the RE:FIT scheme are an excellent indication that plans to reduce carbon emissions from the UK’s built environment are accelerating. The programme was initially London specific, whereby the Mayor of London and European Union European Regional Development Fund helped the likes of NHS bodies, central government agencies, schools and universities, borough councils and heritage organisations to guarantee cost savings in the development and delivery of more energy efficient measures in their buildings.
Now, 16 energy service companies have been selected to work in conjunction with the HM treasury and the Local Government Association to provide the same support and guarantees to public sector clients outside of London. It is estimated that the new framework will result in up to £1.5bn of retrofitting work in public sector buildings nationwide.
Whilst public bodies will still have to fund the retrofitting of their buildings themselves, the benefits of RE:FIT are that the representing energy company that carries out the work must guarantee a minimum level of energy savings. As a result, public sector organisations will save significant time and money because the procurement process will be considerably shorter and more reliably informed.
Essentially, we are looking at greater collaboration between the government, contractors and public sector buildings that is focused on significantly reducing the energy consumption in thousands of buildings across the country.
The changes that can be made to a building and in which the RE:FIT programme will help to procure in a more efficient way are plentiful. Lighting, insulation, voltage optimisation, draught proofing – all can have a significant impact on a buildings energy performance.
Perhaps where building operators can make the biggest strides in reducing carbon emissions and fuel bills, is how they manage the energy required to heat their buildings. A building’s heat source and the means by which the heat is transferred into the building have been an unnecessary drain of energy for many years, despite their being technologies available that can make a genuine difference.
With the support of the RE:FIT programme, the benefits of these technologies and the subsequent savings are likely to become a lot clearer, helping to remove the doubts regarding the return on investment from their installation.
For example, if a building replaces old inefficient radiators with low mass, low water content equivalents, they can expect energy savings of up to 16%. Subtract that percentage from a building’s annual running costs and the financial benefits can be huge whilst preventing unnecessary carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere. What’s more, the benefits stretch into that actual heating performance within the building in terms of comfort. Low mass and low water content – use a tenth of the water required to heat a standard steel panelled radiator – which means that the radiators are highly responsive and can provide better comfort levels for the occupants.
It will be exciting to see how RE:FIT impacts sustainable public sector development over the coming months. Quite often these buildings are significant local landmarks, and if they are seen to be making strides towards a future that is less reliant on energy thirsty practices, perhaps it will spark greater urgency in the private and residential sectors too.