A to Z of Best Practice Low Energy Building – B
The A to Z is a regular feature on Kiss Life. We have some fantastic guest contributors lined up, all are experts in their field. Instalments are loosely arranged in alphabetical order. The A to Z is applicable to all house building rather than being specific to Kiss House and as such it is a useful resource for all self-builders / custom-builders alike.
This post covers B and to date we have published Building Performance Evaluation, Building Regulations & BIM – Building Information Modelling all below.
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The Kiss House Team
Building Performance Evaluation:
Building Performance Evaluation has been written by building performance evaluator and low energy design technical specialist Lisa Pasquale. We are delighted that Lisa has shared her expertise and knowledge with us and hope that you find it an interesting read.
Written by: Lisa Pasquale
Lisa is a building performance evaluator, and technical specialist in low-energy design and quality management in construction at Six Cylinder. She was previously Sustainable Design Development Manager at Architype, & has worked as an Architectural designer. She is a CIBSE Chartered Engineer and qualified domestic Retrofit Coordinator. In 2016 she won the UK Green Building Council’s Rising Star Award. www.six-cylinder.co.uk/
Building performance evaluation is the practice of understanding how buildings work, in terms of energy demand, environmental quality and the satisfaction of occupants. It’s less commonly known to be the only way that architects, engineers and builders know if their work has provided the intended outcomes.
When buildings are designed to meet performance targets, designers have to make a host of assumptions: The temperature of the heating? How much the windows will be open? Will occupants be home all day or only evenings and weekends? And, even more basic assumptions of what weather the building will need to endure (an increasingly unpredictable variable). It’s important to go back and verify or understand the actuality of these assumptions, after the building is finished, to improve future buildings and fine-tune how the building is working.
Building performance evaluation (BPE) uses a range of investigative techniques to quantify how well a building is meeting the needs of occupants. This includes monitoring energy consumption to understand how, when and why energy is moving through the building, monitoring environmental conditions – like temperature, air quality and humidity, to understand how comfortable the home is, and thermal imaging to understand where heat is escaping from the building envelope.
Most importantly, it needs to include feedback from residents. This is crucial in helping designers understand residents’ perspective on how comfortable the home is, if it meets their expectations, how easy it is to operate and maintain, and even if it brings them delight and a good sense of place as a home.
Data is gathered from a combination of qualitative and quantitate sources. It is relatively simple these days to build sensors into the building fabric which record temperature, moisture and air quality. Then of-course there are utility bills, general observations – and finally, direct occupant feedback via guided questions or simple capture of direct subjective comments. We gather user feedback using structured interviews, resident surveys and focus groups, with feedback collected and collated by independent third parties to ensure that residents feel free to give candid and honest opinions.
What key learning does BPE bring to the design process?
One thing we repeatedly learn from BPE is that users love simplicity. They like features that are easy to understand, controls that are easy to operate, and systems that are straightforward to maintain. Whilst this may seem a ‘no-brainer’, many new systems going into buildings claim to be easier to operate than they actually are. The difference between a system that is actually easy to use and one that sells itself on a litany of ‘easy to use’ features, is actually a very subtle one. The feedback loop gives designers a clearer understanding of which features of new technologies suit residents well, and which are still too complex for a layperson to use confidently and effectively.
Low-energy designs are never low-energy buildings unless they have a really well designed, detailed and constructed building envelope. All the green-bling in the world (PVs, heat pumps, and fancy micro-generation) will almost never overcome a building which leaks warm air to the outside through poor airtightness and thermal bridges, or having to constantly open windows to get fresh, clean air inside the home.
Users’ lifestyles and behaviours have a huge influence in energy consumption. Thus, it is critical for designers and builders to hand-over a building effectively to new residents, and to clearly communicate how to make the most of a low-energy home. We call this giving a home a “soft landing” to the resident, and making sure that they understand how best to operate and maintain it.
Don’t underestimate the importance of predicted performance vs. actual performance. Many grand claims have been made for buildings that have subsequently been proven to be wide of the mark. The only way for the industry to close this gap is by ongoing checking, and using the information to feedback into future refinements. Clients should embrace this positively as their role is vital to ensuring the continued pursuit of excellence by some in the industry.
With best wishes
Many thanks to Lisa for writing this and to you for reading! Please feel free to ask questions / comment below.
BUILDING REGULATIONS (UK):
Written by: Geoff Wilkinson
Geoff Wilkinson is the Building Regulations expert for Architects Journal and is an Approved Inspector overseeing compliance of the Kiss House project
Geoff is Managing Director of Award Winning Approved Inspectors Wilkinson Construction Consultants www.thebuildinginspector.org
What are Building Regulations?
B is for Building Regulations: The Law which dictates the minimum standards for design, construction and alteration of virtually every building in the UK – it states how buildings must be built.
The past 20 years have seen successive Governments target Building Regulations as part of their Red Tape challenge, identifying unnecessary burden & bureaucracy that prevents people from building their dream homes. This took an even greater focus thanks to BREXIT as we heard about the layers of EU Regulation that hold back the UK from being great again.
In the run up to activating Article 50 I had the pleasure of speaking with Lord Stunell about these regulations and what we could look forward to now the UK will be free of EU Bureaucrats. However in our discussions we struggled to identify any Building Regulations that we thought we could repeal.
We started with Part A Structure – did we want less robust buildings that were more likely to fall down? Clearly that wasn’t going to be popular. Perhaps we could repeal Part B Fire Safety – though this wasn’t the EU’s fault and had been on the statute books since the Great Fire of London in the 1660’s!
Maybe Part C could go – though that would lead to flooding and damp ingress into our Buildings and again that did not seem wise? Part E would mean less sound insulation. Part F would result in even worse air quality in our homes, and Water and Drainage (Parts G & H) seemed pretty essential too. Meanwhile Gas and Electrical safety (parts J & P) seemed to be saving lives, as was Staircase and Balcony guarding (part K) by preventing falls. Part L was doing a good job of reducing carbon emissions and keeping down heating bills by insisting on insulation.
In fact as went we through them part by part, a picture emerged that Building Regulations were not just red tape but did a great job of ensuring that buildings were safe, secure and energy efficient. In fact if anything there was good cause to look at strengthening them rather than removing them, perhaps widening the scope to require passivhaus construction as a minimum rather than as an aspirational standard? This is particularly apposite following the Grenfell Tower* fire disaster in London recently.
So in conclusion Building Regulations have an important role in keeping us safe & healthy and designers should aspire to perform above the minimum standards they set & not design down to them.
*For more: Geoff Wilkinson is featured in this Financial Times article on Grenfell and the building regulations
Many thanks to Geoff for writing this and to you for reading! Please feel free to ask questions / comment below.
BIM – Building Information Modelling:
Written by Elrond Burrell
Architect and certified Passive House Designer. Director of VIA architecture | Passive House Experts http://via-architecture.net Author & publisher of Passivhaus in Plain English & More http://elrondburrell.com
BIM has been all the rage in the UK for several years now, fuelled in part by the government mandating “BIM Level 2” on all projects they fund from 2016.
What is BIM?
BIM, an abbreviation for “Building Information Modelling”, is where the design is built up as an information-rich digital model. Sometimes BIM refers to “Building Information Modelling” (a process) and sometimes even “Building Information Management” (also, a process). Perhaps it’s easiest understood in contrast to 2d and 3d CAD.
2d CAD is where drawings are produced digitally using CAD (Computer Aided Design / Draughting) software, but otherwise remains essentially the same as producing drawings by hand on paper. The drawings are a collection of lines and shapes and text.
3d CAD takes this to another level where a digital model is built and the drawings are a product of the digital model. This allows other 3d views to be generated also and animations. Many marketing fly-by animations for projects are a product of 3d CAD. The model and drawings are a collection of 3d geometry as well as lines and shapes and text. Sometimes 3d CAD is mistakenly referred to as BIM.
BIM, however, is not an evolution from 2d and 3d CAD, it is a paradigm shift. A Building Information Model starts with a collection of digital objects that have relationships with each other and contain information about what they are and how they relate. Visually the digital model can be similar in appearance to 3d CAD, however, changing one object can have an effect on another object that it has a relationship with.
For example, moving a door component, changes the wall component it is ‘hosted’ within. Selecting a door component will bring up information about the size, the material specification, the acoustic requirements, the fire rating etc. So, in one sense, this kind of digital model is a database of information with a visual interface. And because each view is showing the same information, it’s always up to date in every view – plans, elevations, sections, 3d views, details. Change something in one view and it’s up to date in all the others.
The digital model is just the start of BIM, though. The other key aspect is collaboration. Since the digital model is object and relationship based and information-rich, it can interact with other similar digital models. And so can the people working on the models!
Once people and processes get involved, everything gets messy. Therefore, there have been a whole suite of standards published on the methods and processes to be using in a BIM project. It started with PAS 1192-2:2013 and then spread from there. PAS is an abbreviation for “Publicly Available Specification” and is effectively a precursor to a British Standard. Of course, the result is a growing library of BIM bureaucracy!
What benefits does BIM offer?
Efficiency: build a digital model and all the drawings, schedules and key specification information can be found in one place. Changes and revisions can be instantly propagated throughout the model and all the relevant views and schedules.
Collaboration: Multiple people can work on the same model, consultants can share models and link them into the same digital workspace.
Coordination: Components and elements are in the digital model, so all views show them in the same place. Models that are linked, can also be seen in all views. The architect can see structural element in the model from any view or angle they wish and check it doesn’t clash.
Visualisation: 3d views with applied materials are a great way to understand a project inside and out.
Communication: Clients often struggle to imagine what a space or building element looks like from a 2d drawing. 3d views communicate better and being information-rich allows another depth of communication.
Information transfer: 3d digital models along with fully coordinated electronic drawings and data can facilitate a smooth flow of information between designers, consultants, fabricators and constructors.
Building Performance simulation: energy simulations can be run on the digital model to test and improve building performance.
Fun: BIM brings architecture back into the digital design and documentation process. You’re working with a detailed 3d digital prototype of a building.
Many thanks to Elrond for writing this and to you for reading! Please feel free to ask questions / comment below.