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Industry to 'design for performance' in new pilotsMay 2016


Joanna Harris, Head of Sustainable Construction Group, BSRIA
Pilot studies will test the Commitment Agreement processes used in Australia to achieve world-leading operational energy performance.

With sponsorship from leading players in the UK office market and the backing of the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), a team led by Verco and including BSRIA, Arup and UBT, is launching an 18 month pilot programme to test a ‘Design for Performance’ approach for UK prime rented office developments which mirrors the ground-breaking NABERS Commitment Agreement used in Australia.

The pilot study follows a successful feasibility study to assess whether NABERS-style Commitment Agreements could work in the UK.

Commitment Agreements were introduced in Australia in 2002, to allow in-use energy performance to be targeted throughout the development process and verified by an investment-grade NABERS rating using 12 months of metered data.

The feasibility study found that “base building” landlord’s services in all new office buildings in Australia using this approach typically use half as much energy as when Commitment Agreements started in 2002, and the best one-quarter. It also found that new office base buildings in London today use as much energy as those in Melbourne did in 2002.

Importantly, the study has highlighted that there are no technical reasons why a NABERS-style Commitment Agreement could not work in the UK, however, two critical steps need to be taken: measuring “base building” performance and the landlord taking control over all the “base building” services. 

In Australia, many occupiers, not just the government, now require minimum NABERS ratings for lettings and there is increasing evidence to demonstrate that tenants seek and will pay a premium for space in higher rated buildings. This has led to strong interest from investors for better rated buildings, as well as NABERS being used as a standard for Green Bonds. It is hoped that such a market could be created in the UK.

The portfolio of ten pilot studies have been selected to span different stages of a building’s life cycle, enabling the project team to test most aspects of the Commitment Agreement process without waiting for a single project to progress from initial briefing to operation.

Jo Harris, Head of Sustainable Construction, said: “The feasibility study has confirmed that there is still a very clear benefit to be realised from following through with the commitment agreements model. The pilot studies will be our opportunity to gather the evidence needed to ensure that the business case can be supported.”

The findings of the feasibility study are available to download here

Notes to editors

The Better Buildings Partnership is a not for profit business collaboration of the UK’s leading commercial property owners who are working together to improve the sustainability performance of existing buildings. It has 27 Members who together have £180bn of assets under management.

UBT, NABERS, DECC, BCO, BPF and UK-GBC are respectively the Usable Buildings Trust, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, the British Council for Offices, the British Property Federation, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and the UK Green Building Council.

The proposed work will pilot a prototype UK Commitment Agreement protocol integrated with the Soft Landings Framework to provide the collaborative platform needed to motivate clients and construction professionals to focus on energy and internal environment operational outcomes.

The work is being funded and overseen by leading players in the UK prime office market: British Land, Legal & General Real Assets, Stanhope, TH Real Estate, Laing O’Rourke, NG Bailey and energy simulation company EDSL and has attracted charitable funding for UBT’s inputs and technical assistance from Australia which is being provided by Paul Bannister, who helped to develop NABERS Energy, and his team at Energy Action in Canberra. The initiative is also supported by the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), which is responsible for running the NABERS scheme on behalf of the Australian government. The project is supported by DECC, BCO, BPF, CIBSE and UK-GBC.

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