Aedas R&D Pecha Kucha on building performance

As part of Open City’s Green Sky Thinking Programme, Aedas R&D hosted a Pecha Kucha event and drinks reception at their Clerkenwell offices last week. I’m not sure if it was the free drinks on offer, the lively presentation format or a genuine interest in building performance data, but the event was packed with a good mix of over 100 attendees, about 40% architects, another 40% engineers, as well as quite a few clients, quangos and students in the mix. Six presenters offered a quick-fire summary of the project work and experiences of practices participating in the Technology Strategy Board’s Building Performance Evaluation programme.

Judit Kimpian

Judit Kimpian, AEDAS

After introductions from deputy chairman of Aedas Europe Peter Oborn, Judit Kimpian, director of sustainable architecture and research, presented the recently revamped front end of the Carbon Buzz data platform, which focuses on closing the performance gap – the difference between expected and achieved building performance.  Championed by Aedas R&D and using CIBSE’s Energy Benchmarks, CarbonBuzz provides an online interface to track project energy use from design to operation. The data base now includes 13 published and over 260 anonymous projects.

The line-up for the evening included a lot of familiar faces: Ian Taylor from Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, John Ackroyd from Architype, Dan Rigamonti from Aedas, Anna Menezes from Aecom and  Justin Bere of Bere Architects. The speakers shared their early findings and debated implications for policy and practice.

Discussing recent FCBStudios research on performance of schools, Ian Taylor noted the many different metrics which can be used - KwH/m2, Kwh/student/hour of operation or C02/m2/annum - and stressed the need for consistent data which would lead to improved understanding and better design.

Host presenter Dan Rigamonti of Aedas gave a well-paced presentation which highlighted the key themes of the evening. A better understanding of what people put in buildings, the building fabric around them and the way in which occupants interact with these are key to reducing the performance gap. Summing up lessons learned from the five buildings studied as part of the TSB’s Building Performance Evaluation programme, he emphasised the importance of looking more closely at the methods used for predicting energy use.  Beginning his Pecha Kucha with a quote from Einstein ‘Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler’ he summed up with another:

Jon Ackroyd from Architype presented preliminary findings from St Luke’s C of E Primary School in Wolverhampton. The practice is now completing a two year Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Oxford Brookes University which involved Building Performance Evaluation on six of their built projects.  Jon observed that the research findings have ‘changed the way we work’, prompting the practice to set up a team dedicated to POE which will be offered as a service.

Justin Bere described the results of coheating tests undertaken by the practice on their two Welsh houses and Ranulf Road, Camden. Exceptionally, all three projects are performing slightly better than predicted. According to Justin, it’s relatively easy for architects to undertake simple monitoring themselves for a few hundred pounds. Just by downloading energy data every fortnight and entering it into a ExCel graph, one can start to see patterns and identify easy wins. Justin’s view is that a basic level of POE should be included in a spec. The Soft Landings approach offers a further reality check.

All the presentations featured interesting anecdotes of the design and consultation process, with the aim of producing holistic designs responding to their ambitious sustainable design briefs. The most conclusive outcome of all six presentations - which cut across the experiences of the different practices - was the role of human error in terms of user requirements and maintenance needs for each building. This can be especially difficult to  assess in the early predictions of a building’s energy consumption.

This informative evening  kick-started  the  Green Sky Thinking programme of events organised by Open City to celebrate World Green Building Week. It was particularly good to see the diversity of the audience since cross-disciplinary working is the only way we’ll ever close the performance gap.

photos: Mark Shenley

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