Energy Environment

Energy scandal: misleading efficiency claims leading to huge bills for homeowners

Homeowners and companies are being hit with unexpectedly high energy bills because planners continually make false promises about the ‘green’ credentials of new buildings, a major study has found.

Thousands of new homes, schools and offices are using double the energy that they should because planners are massively overestimating their efficiency, the University of Bath has found.

Britain’s buildings account for nearly half of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions through heating, cooking and lighting, but a new study suggests that carbon dioxide levels could be slashed if structures acted as they did on paper.

Experts at Bath University likened the scandal to the VW emissions debacle, where thousands of cars were fitted with defeat devices to beat rigorous pollution testing.

The government is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020, and 80% by 2050, but researchers say targets will be missed if builders continue to misinform clients about how efficient their homes and offices will be.

The difference between how much energy a building is predicted to use and how much it uses in reality has been known in the industry for decades, and is dubbed the ‘performance gap.’ But architects and engineers have traditionally blamed the problem on faulty construction, or unexpected use after completion – such as owners leaving too many lights on.

Half of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by buildings, but they are using double the amount of energy than they should

However David Coley, Professor of Low Carbon Design at the University of Bath, said the real problem stemmed from the practice of building modelling, which is not ‘fit for purpose.’

It’s a serious scandal,” he said. “It affects all new buildings as well as the refurbishment of older ones. When one school in Plymouth was rebuilt, the energy bills for a month ended up costing the same as for an entire year in the old 1950s building.

“The problem is nobody checks that the building is performing as promised. There is very little regulation. They can’t be sued. It’s like a surgeon not being bothered about whether their patient lived or died.”

New homes are often not as efficient as older houses

In the first research of its kind, a team from Bath’s Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering and Department of Psychology interviewed 108 building modelling professionals about 21 common design energy-related aspects of a building, from the insulation in the walls to the temperature the heating was set to.

The questioning was based on a real building in which detailed energy, occupancy and temperature data had been recorded, and provided a comparison with the answers of those surveyed.

Source: The Telegraph

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