Posted by Robert Cohen

Design for Performance: towards nearly zero energy buildings in operation

On 12th April, Verco's Robert Cohen presented at the CIBSE Technical Symposium in London:

The primary function of an office building is to create a comfortable environment where occupants can work productively. Climate change and other factors dictate that new office buildings should also be energy efficient. It is startling that we in the UK have no idea if they are: we do not measure it. The thesis of Design for Performance (DfP) is that if we are going to start measuring the actual energy efficiency of buildings, then developers will want confidence that their new buildings will perform well. DfP is a process to underwrite the operational performance of new office buildings.

Many people assume there are regulations which assure the energy efficiency of new buildings. But the awkward fact remains: Unless performance outcomes are measured, no-one can say whether these design-based regulations are effective. Australia has totally transformed the energy efficiency of its new office buildings over the last 15 years, by placing measured performance outcomes at the heart of its approach.

Although the logic for an energy efficient solution is unassailable, it is a notoriously weak driver of institutional and behavioural change, especially when the evidence is invisible. Importantly, the case for DfP rests on more fundamental motivations. The Australian market shows that office buildings with better energy efficiency ratings produce higher yields, through higher income returns and stronger capital growth. This is because better rated buildings are seen as better quality buildings, and command rent premiums tenants are willing to pay.

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