With non-domestic buildings in the UK contributing to around 18% of all UK carbon emissions, it’s unsurprising that government regulations for commercial buildings are geared towards promoting sustainability. These days, new build projects to construct commercial space must gain an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and comply with Part L building regulations.
The Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM) is a calculation used to verify that a newly built commercial building will achieve the Target Emission Rate (TER) required to attain an EPC and Part L compliance.
The reason for the focus on the non-domestic building sector, is a combination of the ambitious UK target to deliver carbon reductions of 80% by 2050 and the fact that the non-domestic building sector’s emissions have remained static for the last 20 years. Currently, 75,000 existing commercial properties attain EPC ratings of F or G, falling short of delivering adequate efficiency to cut emissions.
However, the conflict between build costs and environmental specification remains, with a recent CBRE study revealing that development of greener buildings is likely to add between 5% and 7.5% to construction costs. The temptation to sacrifice long-term running costs and carbon benefits in order to keep a project budget on track, is sometimes too great to resist.
For that reason, the SBEM is a relatively successful model that is helping to provide a framework for driving down CO2 emissions in a measurable and accountable way.
Essentially, SBEM calculations compute the amount of energy used by a building, through features like heating and lighting, as well as the amount of carbon dioxide the building emits. The calculation, which should be carried out by a qualified assessor, will produce a figure or ‘rating’ between 1 and 150. The closer to 1 the rating is, the more energy efficient the building is deemed to be. A BRUKL certificate is then issued, and if the project meets the requirements it will have passed Building Regulations Part L.
Providing the SBEM calculations are complied with throughout the build, in theory, the new construction will achieve approval from the approved inspector and building control to meet the statutory regulations.
Once the build is complete, a commercial EPC is produced to prove the building meets the stated energy efficiency requirement and to satisfy building control inspectors.
There are a number of things that should be thought about at design stage, prior to the SBEM assessment beginning, in order to give the best chance of getting a good result. These include:
The UK Government is serious about driving down the country’s CO2 emissions and ensuring that new developments are clearly focused on achieving a transition to a more carbon neutral built environment.
With this important political agenda being embraced across both the public and private sectors, developers and investors alike would be prudent not to dismiss the value of sustainability in commercial property development in 2015.
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