Refurbishment – the key to cutting carbon

A lot of emphasis is placed on the energy efficiency of new buildings, and Part L of the Building Regulations, along with Energy Performance Certificates have helped to set higher standards for the carbon footprint of new buildings.

But there is no getting away from the fact that if we are to lower the UK’s carbon emissions, and save energy, we will have to improve our existing building stock. This applies equally to the private and public sector buildings. It is estimated that 60% of the buildings that will be standing in 2050 are already built; and 40% will pre-date 1985 when Building Regulations relating to the consumption of fuel and power (Part L) were introduced. Many building owners and managers are being forced to consider their energy use by the introduction of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

Refurbishment projects come in all shapes and sizes, from virtually rebuilding to replacing building services equipment such as boilers or air conditioning systems. In today’s tough economic climate, finding the money for these projects is a challenge, so the search is on for cost-effective measures to reduce energy.

The majority of commercial buildings in the UK will have some form of building controls already installed. Significant energy savings can be made simply by ensuring that this existing equipment is being used correctly. This is a very low-cost energy saving strategy, and one which would certainly count as a quick win.  

According to the Carbon Trust, incorrect application of boiler controls can easily add 15% to 30% to fuel consumption compared to a well-controlled system. A simple review of the existing building control systems can establish whether it is operating correctly, and if necessary adjustments can be made.

When more extensive refurbishments are undertaken it is important to remember that controls help to ensure efficient building operation, as well as occupant comfort.  The Carbon Trust says that used correctly, a building energy management system can reduce total energy costs by up to 10%, and increase occupant comfort.

For example, if open plan offices are partitioned this can change the effectiveness of lighting or cooling. Building controls can help to avoid these potential problems, as long as the controls experts are consulted at an early stage. This also applies to the replacement of old building services equipment – there is little point investing in new, energy efficient boilers if they are not correctly controlled.

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