Building passports will be key to monitoring the energy perforamce of buildings. BMJ talks to the Insulation Manufacturers Association to find out why.


emaining on track to meet legally- binding and ambitious climate change targets will be the biggest challenge the country faces post-COVID. That’s according to Simon Storer, chief executive at the Insulation Manufacturers Association, who argues that, while the Green Homes Grant is a very small step in the right direction plenty of other ways will be needed to incentivise the deep renovation necessary to make underperforming buildings energy efficient.

“How can we ensure buildings, like vehicles, meet the required performance standards,” he asks. “One way is by introducing the concept of a digital building passport which will go beyond the existing Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and could play an important part in understanding and measuring the UK’s journey towards cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.”

Since 2007, EPCs have provided information about the energy efficiency of domestic and commercial buildings, but as these have a lifespan of just 10 years, the first certificates produced in 2007 have now expired. Regrettably, Storer says, there has been considerable inconsistency and uncertainty with the standards of EPCs and very little impetus to update information about a building if it had any material changes. “A building that was originally rated in 2008 for example, may well have undergone renovations or changes; anything from extensions to replacement glazing, with or without building approvals, but not had an updated EPC,” he says.

Information capture Storer adds that buildings need to capture more and better information, which should be made available centrally and securely to be referenced and updated throughout a building’s life. If the data used to create EPCs was expanded and held in a data warehouse, it would enable information to be retained and updated. “This longer term approach with better storage of information would allow for maintenance and replacements to be factored in and help ensure that buildings are designed, modified and renovated with


past history of a property and help develop a roadmap of requirements for the future.” This passport concept, which Storer says is also gaining traction across Europe, looks beyond energy efficiency and single measures. “It focuses on the building as a whole and the requirements or occupants, with longer term planning and interventions that consider interactions between elements and what is right for the building. Tailoring a plan of interventions that includes energy efficiency as part of a whole building consideration will be hugely beneficial,” he says.

Shared progress

For local authorities, having updated information on the energy performance of homes and buildings based on the work already done could help shape policies and show progress, in terms of the long- term energy saving strategy. The building passport concept could, Storer suggests, support building owners, with more tailored renovation suggestions and a longer-term (15-20 years plus) step-by-step roadmap for a specific building.

tomorrow’s low carbon needs in mind,” he says.

Of itself the EPC does not capture everything necessary for a good retrofit plan to be developed. It may cover many aspects of a building’s energy performance, but it doesn’t consider the state of repair, or interventions that do not directly improve efficiency.

Storer points out that, when a building has a change of use, or any number of refurbishments during its lifetime, there is currently little requirement to log evidence or details of the work carried out. This, he argues, has become an issue and has resulted in a lack of confidence and knowledge about a building, particularly when a building is handed over or changes hands. “A digital building passport could therefore enhance the data and information provided in the EPC and provide digital guidance on the changes required and already undertaken. This combination of data could provide homeowners and building managers with the

“At the heart of the passport would sit a repository of all building-related information including building plans, constraints, energy consumption and production, executed and proposed maintenance works and full information about the building construction, servicing including any history of previous works undertaken. This would support the recommendations and design of any interventions.

“We have the materials, technology and the knowledge to improve our buildings, but agreeing what needs to be done and then confirming that work has been carried out to a decent standard and is value for money, is the real challenge.

“Building-related information on elements such as energy consumption/production, maintenance and building plans should be transferable between building owners. A digital building passport could do just that, enabling people to get their first glimpse of a building’s overall ‘health check’ and a useful tool towards better and more energy efficient buildings. BMJ November 2020

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