The built environment – A year in review
In December 2015 – a month where the signing of the Paris Agreement occurred – few could have predicted the changes witnessed in 2016; namely the shake-up in politics both in the UK and across the Atlantic. Despite the future of sustainability initiatives feeling uncertain in the US following the election of Donald Trump as President, in the UK, the attitude towards building a more sustainable environment has continued to gain momentum. In 2016 this became noticeably more widespread – as 194 parties chose to ratify the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise to a minimum.
For London in particular, 2016 was the year that Sadiq Khan was appointed London Mayor – a Mayor who has pledged to create a cleaner, greener London by creating and harnessing “new, low-carbon technologies and industries that represent the jobs and businesses of the future.”
But the question remains: have sustainability initiatives helped to make our buildings become more energy-efficient? What can we expect will change with regards to energy efficiency over the next 12 months?
There have been some changes – some big, some small – but all indicate that a culture towards improving sustainability is beginning to emerge.
Tenants wising up to the benefits of energy-efficient technologies
As of the 1st April this year, UK tenants are permitted to request consent from their landlords to carry out energy efficiency improvements to privately rented properties. The introduction of this legislation has meant that landlords are unable to reasonably refuse consent. This change should encourage those specifying new homes to include technologies which prioritise energy efficiency – as this is something at the forefront of prospective tenants’ minds.
Building regulations are due a review
Ventilation in schools: In June 2016, a consultation was opened to discuss the revision of the Building Bulletin Issue 101 with regards to Ventilation in Schools. In the last year there has been an increased interest in Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and its impact on building occupants – particularly children. Poor IAQ can impact concentration and performance in the classroom of both teachers and pupils, and the legislation surrounding correct carbon dioxide levels must be accurate. Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV) or mechanical ventilation is a solution which can solve the problem of poor IAQ as it intelligently controls the level of carbon dioxide in the space, providing the right amount of ventilation at the right time, without wasting energy unnecessarily.
Pupil numbers are also increasing in schools – meaning there is the demand for hundreds of new schools to be built. With this new legislation in place, education consultants will be able to specify schools which are appropriately ventilated and will not require retrofitting at a later date. The final version of the amended BB101 is expected to be published in the first half of 2017 – the first major update to the Bulletin in over 10 years. This is showing that the government is taking a more active role in protecting and ensuring schools actively monitor their learning environments.
Generation of carbon emissions from non-domestic buildings: This is another topic that has been placed under the microscope in 2016 – a consultation was initiated by both UK Green Buildings Council and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Non-domestic buildings account for 17% of energy use and around 12% of greenhouse gas emissions, and are levels which must be reduced to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and to help meet the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement.
In this report, the primary recommendation was the implementation of Display Energy Certificates (DEC) for all new and existing non-domestic buildings. This consultation piece has also advised that the government invest in technologies such as biogas, hydrogen and heat pumps. This consultation is open until 27th January 2017, and the results are expected shortly after.
Commercial landlords must be aware of their obligations
Looking forward to 2017, as from the 1st April 2018, commercial landlords will have to ensure that their properties have a minimum energy performance rating of E on their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), or face a civil penalty of up to £4,000. Commercial landlords must therefore start making energy efficiency improvements now if they wish to ensure that their property is in-keeping with the new legislation.
Fuel poverty to be tackled
It looks as if measures will commence to tackle the prevalent issue of fuel poverty in 2017. It has been estimated that last winter, 9,000 people in England and Wales died because their homes were too cold. However, from April 2017-2022, £640m will be spent annually on improving energy efficiency in homes. Those in the built industry are beginning to realise not only the environmental benefits of specifying energy-efficient technologies, but also the impact that they can have on energy bills. For housebuilders, it is crucial that energy-efficient solutions, particularly heating solutions, are chosen, as in the long-term it can help to combat increasing energy bills for tenants and homeowners who otherwise may have been fuel poor.
Energy efficiency innovation continues to be a priority for Jaga
There are many ways in which a building can become more energy efficient – including having energy-efficient heating and ventilation systems specified and installed. Jaga is an innovator of smart, energy-efficient solutions which help to conserve energy for building owners and improve air quality for inhabitants – while lowering energy bills and carbon emissions. We are seeing an increasing number of forward looking developers, architects and consultants advising and specifying in intelligent design and smart systems as these are the easiest ways to create a controlled, energy-efficient built environment in 2017 and beyond. As fundamental market players – these are all good indicators that as an industry we are moving in the right direction to improve our built environments.