How to solve the UK Building Industries Vehicle Emissions scandal

How to solve the UK Building Industries Vehicle Emissions scandal

Yesterday I attended my first UK Green Building Council report launch which was headlined as ‘Delivering Building Performance’.  The report was first set up to look at how the Zero Carbon Policy could be implemented and to make a strong economic case for businesses to do so. When the policy was scrapped the group had to refocus their report to look at operational performance and identify how organisations could make buildings work harder in practice, not just design.

From reading the report (which can be viewed here) it is clear that there is a lack of joined up thinking from all stakeholders who have an effect on a buildings performance. A buildings journey from concept, to handover, to occupancy involves many people, ideas and organisations. Like Chinese whispers, a well thought out concept at the top of the chain may end up becoming something completely different by the time the tenants move in.

In this regard, it is no surprise that UK buildings are performing so poorly. On many occasions speakers refered to the 250% extra emissions as the Building industries vehicle emissions scandal, yet to be exposed!

So, is it possible to reverse this trend and make our buildings more efficient? I believe it is.

Land owners must set clear and measurable goals for their buildings and I agree with the reports measurement of kWh per m² as a good benchmark. At the start of a project land owners should agree this figure with their design, construction and maintenance team. They could even make it contractually obliging that the building operates at a certain kWh per m² and penalties be incurred should the building not operate to the agreed level.  This will give clear focus to the energy efficiency of the building to all organisations involved in a particular project.

Ensuring the building is properly metered to allow for the depth of monitoring and analysis that is needed to be energy efficient, should also be factored in to any new build. Debbie Hobbs, Sustainability Manager at Legal and General property is clearly an advocate of this approach. However, just having an energy monitoring and targeting system doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be used by the FM’s or the occupants.  Debbie explains, ‘’For one of our new developments I am trying to work out if the building is performing to the initial design, the AMR system consisting of 300 meters including optimum front end for monitoring and targeting was turned off by the FM employed by the managing agents because, ‘they don’t normally do things like this’, instead they manually read the meters and key it into their system.’’

This problem can be overcome through making the front end monitoring and targeting software simple to understand and easily communicated so that people can act on the data to improve performance. We have recently developed a new module within our own energy monitoring and targeting system which will help with communication across the multiple organisations involved in the running of a building. The module allows a lead auditor to log a significant deviation and request actions to be taken by the person responsible for the energy of the site in question. Participants can then log their observations and actions taken creating an audit trail. This closed loop solution can engage all of the necessary stakeholder and improves their knowledge of the building and how to keep it running efficiently.

Furthermore, buildings that are more energy efficient and offer a comfortable environment to occupants are more likely to have a higher life time value. Institutional investors have started to cotton on to this with more and more using The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark tools (GRESB). With investors being at the top of the food chain, they set the tone for what they want their property portfolio to operate in terms sustainability. I am sure that more and more investors will take things like energy efficiency of their buildings much more seriously as the business case becomes more compelling.

So my message to the UK building industry is this:

Have a clear and defined energy efficiency target set out by the land owner which all stake holders are aware of

Contractually tie all stakeholders into achieving the energy efficiency target

Monitor, Target, Communicate and ACT on energy consumption data

Communicate success stories and share best practice

If you are interested in finding out more about our energy monitoring and targeting system, eco|Driver® please feel free to email me on