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Recurring Industry Themes

Emma Bleach

By Emma Bleach, Programme Manager at CBx

CBx were invited to speak at the Majority Energy Users Council in early March to discuss the research around existing heat networks, and contribute to the panel discussion around the role of facilities and end-users. The overriding theme and take home message from the session was the need for industry collaboration, the importance of designing buildings with the end-user in mind and that data is a key player. None of these themes are new ….


The need for industry collaboration

There is a lot of good work occurring within the industry and gaining recognition on an international scale (see Building Day during COP21!). Industry is driving research within areas such as promoting health and wellbeing, analysing bigger data sets, and utilising low carbon technologies. While this progression is a positive drive forward, expertise is often occurring within their own silos.

The risk of individual technical silos is that industry as a whole does not benefit, and rather the overall impact diminishes too. It can be argued that documents, reports and events of these areas are open and accessible for individuals from all audiences. However, engagement needs to occur from the start and throughout, rather than purely as attendance at the final output. With collaboration throughout the lifecycle, industry can work towards a common language and approach to instigate change and translate best practice throughout.


Designing for the end-user

When considering the lifecycle of the built environment, it is worth involving all individual players to best transfer knowledge between them. Knowledge is typically passed on in a linear manner, from designers to engineers, to builders and finally handed over to the end-user. If we have already improved the previous comment on providing a common language, there can be a greater understanding throughout the whole process. For example, approaches such as soft landings exist with end-user knowledge transfer. However, we also need to start designing with the end-user at the front of our mind, not just at handover, as these are the people who will inhabit and control the final building.

The tools to assist with the knowledge transfer already exist within the underutilised tool of post-occupancy evaluation. This being the process of evaluating systems, designs and controls used by the end-user and feeding that information back into both the existing stock of buildings and the design of new ones. This changes the transfer of knowledge from being linear to cyclical by providing a feedback loop. The lessons learnt advances the design and capability of buildings by those who will use them.


Data, the missing key

Underpinning all these areas is data. Data provides an ability to observe trends, highlight improvements and translate changes in energy, carbon and cost to any audience. The ability to provide these benchmarks is vital for our overall success of embedding sustainability into the built environment.

While the industry as a whole is getting better at collecting data, our ability to share this information is not. Collecting local or internal data helps with individual targets, but the ability to compare building stock across the UK is still reliant on outdated values which don’t account for advancements in building techniques and technology.

The frustration is that national reporting schemes, such as Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), can capture a large amount of verified energy data, but this data is not shared or accessible to be analysed. We as an industry must collaborate, share and transfer the data. This in order to create open source datasets for use in up-to-date benchmarking, assisting with the transfer of knowledge and help to provide a common language.

None of these themes are new… So we as an industry must work together in order to drive change to make a real impact within our built environment.


CBxchange is the not-for-profit public forum for building professionals, that specialises in narrowing the performance gap through the sharing of knowledge, data and best practice. Our upcoming programme includes:

Breakfast Briefing – How The importance of POE – How can post occupancy evaluation improve energy, cost and productivity efficiencies? – Thursday 4th May

Spring Training Series – What Data? And Informing Changes – Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th May. 

Research – Low Carbon Heat Networks – How to optimise existing heat networks for improving performance. – Phase II kicks off in April.

For more information on our programme of activities, or to find out how to get involve, please visit cbxchange.org or email info@cbxchange.org