Our buildings – be it the homes we live in, the offices in which we work, or the shops and public spaces we go to – are not performing in the way they should.

They are inefficient in how they use energy due to poor design and management, and more than that, further constructional and operational flaws can significantly impact the comfort, well-being and productivity of the people that use them.

That is the conclusion drawn from a number of studies into building performance published recently, the most prominent being a report based on the findings of the UK government’s £8m Building Performance Evaluation Programme.

Building Performance Evaluation Programme

The report, conducted by Innovate UK, looked at 50 recently-built, cutting-edge buildings, including supermarkets, offices, schools and health centres, and found they were using up to 10 times the amount of energy compared to what they were designed for.

Underlining a need to take action to ensure modern properties meet their energy efficiency targets, especially considering the UK’s major pledge to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80% by 2050, Innovate UK set out a number of recommendations to designers, contractors and clients on future building projects.

A common problem experienced by many building projects has been the complexity involved in merging new technologies, in particular building management systems (BMS) – the computer-based systems used to monitor and control a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment.

Aimed at tackling this problem, alongside the Innovate UK report, the agency’s digital arm – Digital Catapult – has also launched the Building Data Exchange, which allows designers, developers and constructors to access the wealth of data gathered by the Building Evaluation Performance Programme. This, it is hoped, will help improve innovation through encouraging better interaction between the construction industry and smart technology experts.

The rise of PropTech

With better understanding of how to use new technologies in building design and performance, there are huge opportunities to help create smarter buildings and a more sustainable future.

PropTech, or property technology, is one of the industry’s major buzzwords right now, and for good reason.

Amongst other things, PropTech involves the adoption of hardware or software technologies to solve the problems associated with poorly performing buildings, chiefly the excessive use of energy and high costs. By using intelligent devices such as smart meters and thermostats to monitor and control things like heating, lighting, and electricity, property owners are able reduce wastage, and in turn, their bills more easily.

The potential is for PropTech not only to contribute to smarter buildings, but also smart cities via integration with wider infrastructure. Through reacting to external factors outside of a building, certain new technologies being developed – for example – will be able to help stabilise the power grid or improve air quality in surrounding areas.

Building Internet of Things

Linking the state-of-the-art facility systems brought forward by PropTech into an integrated whole is the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT is defined as a large number of data points brought into a cloud environment where analytics can be applied to influence outcomes. Applied to buildings, BIoT (Building Internet of Things) can make it possible to manage all the performance variables in a facility through an all-encompassing BMS.

The use of data and analytics to discern exactly what impacts a building’s performance (before utilising that information to make appropriate changes) is perhaps the most significant recent development in the field of IoT and smart building technology.

This not only allows for a reactive approach to energy efficiency issues, but a proactive process whereby problems can be addressed before they even arise.

However, with so many new smart technologies coming online, the challenge going forward – as underlined by the Innovate UK report – is in making BMSs easier to integrate and implement, as well as more effective in their use. Indeed, a building installed with smart technology doesn’t necessarily make it smart.

Innovate UK found many of the buildings it surveyed had BMSs their occupants found too complicated to use, or that they conflicted with other system controls, leading to confusion and wasteful energy use.

Smarter buildings, then, will only be achieved through continued and increased industry engagement – something that the Building Data Exchange looks to facilitate. Not only does there need to be a greater understanding amongst designers and building owners on how utilise BMSs better, but also between innovators to understand the specific needs and goals of people who use different types of properties.

Why is this important?

Aside from the obvious answer on how better building performance can help save energy and reduce costs, as well as help contribute to environmental responsibilities, energy efficiency is now becoming a necessity through the introduction of greater legislation. 

Whether through ESOS Phase 2, which requires UK organisations to take a number of energy compliance steps before the deadline in December 2019, or MEES, which will see all rented properties needing to meet certain energy efficiency standards by April 2018, business and property owners are now obliged to take action – or face penalties.

For more advice on building performance, ESOS Phase 2 or MEES compliance, please do not hesitate to contact our Energy Efficiency team on 02920 739 540 or email us and we'll get back to you.