The push for more efficiency buildings and more accurate efficiency ratings, by looking at Australia.
- Jan 26, 2022 8:02 am GMT
In the U.S., we have the LEED Certification, a gold standard of building design that strives toward sustainability. In the U.K. there are A-rated buildings among those receiving Energy Performance Certificates. These ratings are meant to provide guidance and signal the bar for how we want buildings to operate. However, a new study from the Better Buildings Partnership in the U.K. found that the top-rated buildings for energy efficiency actually measure out to be using more energy than lower-rated buildings.
Part of this appears to be poor building management. A structure can be designed with the knobs turned just right to perform at peak energy efficiency, then a collection of disparate tenants move in with different needs, begin toying with knobs (think the age-old battle of office temperature) and suddenly that building is not as efficient as designed. Bloomberg City Lab spoke to a source who likened this phenomenon to "buying a hybrid car and only running it on petrol."
The energy efficiency of buildings is a critical puzzle piece in reducing carbon emissions, as construction and existing building infrastructure account for about 40% of the global carbon emissions annually.
The Better Buildings Partnership says this might be a policy issue in how we rate energy efficiency in buildings, and that existing policies and regulations ensure theoretical efficiency, but once put to real-world use, the building’s performance fails. The intent is there, but the performance is lacking.
Part of this could be a data issue as well, especially for older buildings that lack central monitoring systems. In fact, operational performance data has not become a widespread standard in building efficiency. Since this operational performance is not analyzed and reported it is cloaked from the market.
However, in Australia, they have a successful and active energy performance rating system called NABERS, and although I cannot find the words behind the acronym, the phonetic "neighbors" should be good enough to understand its intent. The NABERS system rates building performance, not intent, on a scale of six stars. Performance vs. intent is the critical distinction. The rating system reaches almost 90% of the country's commercial office real estate market and the ratings are transparent and accessible.
NABERS offers more truth and is more in line with what we need, in developed countries—less talk more walk. The current system of rating buildings before they are occupied with humans is causing harm and blinding us from the important work ahead on increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings.
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