Paradigm change in the building design process for developers and design teams

The imminent arrival of regulatory changes, that control the environmental performance of our buildings, will dramatically improve the buildings’ energy use with the imposition of a new Part L, helping to push the UK built infrastructure to net zero carbon in the fullness of time. But with these changes, will an adjustment of the design and delivery paradigm of new buildings be required? Wintech CEO, Chris Macey, explores the current issues and challenges facing the industry.

It is a necessary requirement that we all take the need to reduce carbon emissions associated with our buildings seriously. The Government’s imposition of a stringent, regulatory framework to deliver this by design, specification, and subsequent validation of buildings’ ‘as built performance’ is entirely relevant if we are to attempt to preserve the environment for our children and their children’s children. It is a completely sage and rightful step in the road to net zero carbon.

This is a small but important change which should reduce emissions by 30% against current requirements after this year, but the intent is to make all buildings and current building stock net zero by 2050.

If we consider the forthcoming regulations and start to consider the building specific requirements (in particular, the façade as the primary way of mitigating energy flows) to ensure that we achieve compliance, it becomes clear that the normal design delivery process that we work to does not easily work with such constraints.

Unfortunately, Architects are becoming frustrated that their designs cannot be made to work with the available regulatory compliant products as, when determining the required relative energy flows across a façade, the services engineering professionals are having to specify levels of performance that are not easily achievable with the available façade systems’ products or materials.

If this is not considered fully prior to planning, the results are, at best, that the architecture might need to be retrospectively altered after planning to achieve compliance by, for example, reducing window sizes or increasing the wall thicknesses; however, this is not always possible and comes with some ‘hand wringing’. Ultimately, it might require an adjustment to the planning. At worst, a building design cannot be made to achieve the requirements and therefore, cannot be built.

It is therefore reasonable to assume that the new regulations are somewhat of a challenge to Architects and Developers, in the context of the current regulatory framework. This means, that if we do not get visibility on these factors in the very early building design process, with the Façade Engineer and Services Engineer working closely together with the Architect, then there will be significant difficulties moving forward.

It is however a challenge and is not insurmountable with appropriate façade engineering skill and diligence.

The façade on any building is the primary environmental modifier. It controls energy use more than any other element of the construction and is key to sustainable developments in the future. Wintech’s advice, as Façade Engineers, is to seek planning on a holistic and informed basis, providing designs that recognise the limitations of material performances and the laws of physics. Wintech argue that you cannot effectively achieve this without a Façade Engineer at the table. Essentially, the use of a Facade Engineer in the early design stages is now inextricably linked to the early architectural and services engineering which prevents the later inevitable anguish and protects a developer’s early pre-planning investment.

Wintech Façade Engineering are specialists providing expertise in the science of façade engineering from the early strategic development to completion.