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Maximum urgency
Refurbishment of existing buildings is key to cutting
emissions. But, says CIBSE/ASHRAE Graduate of the Year
Emma Marshall, too often this is a wasted opportunity
n October 2008 energy performance and display CO2 must run through every part of a building. We
energy certificates (EPCs and DECs) became are all personally encouraged to do our bit; we receive
mandatory. This system, while potentially leaflets offering to install solar heating with the promise
embarrassing for building owners who receive a of grants available, a system which is unsuitable for
low rating, does not actually enforce any obligation to most domestic situations. Yet to make a simple and
improve the rating. Many building owners are reluctant effective improvement such as replacing an old boiler
to make changes to their buildings and invest in what with a condensing boiler you are expected to pay
are often expensive improvements when it is not them full tax.
but the tenants who will reap the rewards of lower The holistic view of a
energy bills. Without incentives, significant changes building can be taken one
are unlikely to occur. step further, by examining
It is estimated that around 40 per cent of the the building over the course should not
building stock in the UK will predate the Part L of its life. Often clients
only state the minimum
legislation by 2050. Without legislation dictating the are very specific with their
standards to which buildings must be refurbished, requirements, but when compliance but also ensure
the improvements being made may not be enough to the building usage changes
the standards being met
sufficiently reduce carbon consumption. the space is no longer
There is a huge range of low-carbon and energy- suitable and requires further today will satisfy
efficient systems available, but they are not always refurbishment. Exceeding
future needs
practical for the application in which they are used. The the minimum performance
target to reduce carbon consumption in refurbished standards when refurbishing
schools by 20 per cent, for example, often leads a building, and making the building flexible in its
to impractical choices. Designers are not allowed design and use, could save time and money in the
sufficient time to carry out a full design, and it is often future.
easier to install a token renewable system. Yes, refurbishment of existing buildings is the
Installing biomass boilers in schools seems to be a way forward; but how we encourage it and ensure its
current trend but in a recent BBC Radio 4 programme, effectiveness is very important. We need a very large
one headmistress spoke of how she has to wander carrot and if necessary a big stick, as it were, to ensure
around with a screwdriver to unblock the biomass a sustainable environment. Incentives must be clear
boiler feed twice a day. This doesn’t sound like an and simple, and encourage people to make changes
efficient or practical design. of their own accord. Guidelines must be available to
We must avoid installing eco-bling for the sake of it ensure the correct improvements are being made, and
– hi-tech systems that are specified because they exist that these are practical and efficient in both their design
rather than because they are the best solution. Simple and application.
solutions, such as improving glazing or improving However, there must also be legislation backing up
controls, can be the most effective. Complex systems these incentives. The legislation should not only state
may seem simple to operate to you or me but in the the minimum compliance, but must also consider the
hands of an untrained individual (our clients) the future and ensure the standards being met today will
results can be potentially worse than the original satisfy future needs. People can be encouraged to make
design. changes and improvements, but without clear legislation
Viewing a building and its occupants as a whole, and regulations the type of change needed to ensure
rather than as individual systems, is imperative to a sustainable environment will not always be
ensuring an efficient design. The theme of reducing achieved. l December 2009 CIBSE Journal 17
CIBSEdec09 pp17 opinion.indd 17 19/11/09 16:22:47
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