Closing the performance gap with a building MOT and passport

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The UK has ambitious emission reduction targets but if it is going to meet its net-zero climate change targets by 2050, new and existing buildings must not only be low carbon, low energy and resilient to the changing climate, they should also have an ‘energy MOT’ when they are bought, sold, rented, renovated, or after a certain amount of time has elapsed. This is one way to ensure buildings, like vehicles, will meet certain standards and could go some way to closing the gap between design and built performance.

First mooted by the UK Green Building council ten years ago and more recently by the Committee on Climate Change, the building ‘energy MOT’ or digital ‘green building passport’ would require existing buildings to undergo an ‘MOT’ to monitor energy performance and environmental impact. In New York City, a similar scheme has been launched as part of the Climate Mobilisation Act and will force owners to comply with strict requirements and make energy efficient improvements every ten years – dependent on the results.

When a building has a change of use or any number of refurbishments in its lifetime, there is very little evidence of the work that has been carried out. This has become an issue and has resulted in a lack of confidence, particularly when a building is handed over. A green building passport could act as an audit and provide digital guidance on the changes required and already undertaken to improve a building. It is the natural evolution of the current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).  

Steadily increasing minimum energy performance standards for all buildings are needed. Residential and commercial properties could therefore benefit from a building MOT test and/or a green energy passport, normalising the concept that buildings, like vehicles, must meet certain standards, and is met when a building is bought/sold or renovated/ or after a certain amount of time.

One of the biggest challenges to raising standards is our lack of ability to measure and demonstrate a building’s performance over its lifetime. We have the materials and the knowledge to improve our buildings, but agreeing what needs to be done and then confirming that work has been carried out to a decent standard and is value for money, is the real challenge. Building-related information on elements such as energy consumption/production, maintenance and building plans should be transferable between building owners.

When you buy a building, it’s important to know what that building consists of. This audit trail for the construction echoes Hackitt’s ‘Golden Thread’ of information which is essential to create a more resilient built environment. An MOT or a green building passport is the full record of a building, showing upgrades and improvements throughout its lifetime. It will document performance, add value to an asset and go some way to ensuring our buildings are sustainable and perform to the standard intended.

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