UK buildings carbon emissions scandal

  • 16 Feb 2016

howardchapmanHoward Chapman, Buildingtalk Editor on the latest carbon reduction reports that show alarming discrepancies between projected savings and actual results.


Data from Innovate UK’s Building Performance Evaluation Programme was analysed for new Goverment reports that demonstrate UK buildings emit far more carbon than they were designed to.

Many modern domestic and commercial buildings are falling short of performance expectations and this undermines UK plans to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.

  • buildings were routinely using up to 3.5 times more energy than their design had allowed for
  • only one of the 48 buildings studied produced the amount of carbon specified by its design.
  • total emissions were sometimes 10 times the rate calculated for Part L compliance

The Building Performance Evaluation Programme on ‘actual’ carbon reduction show alarming discrepancies between projected savings and actual results.

It advises constructors on strategies to ensure modern, low-carbon domestic buildings meet expectations after findings that many do not.

Links to download reports:

1-Fullscreen capture 16022016 101137Non-Domestic Buildings Report




1-Fullscreen capture 16022016 095900Domestic Buildings Report

 Domestic Buildings – recommendations

  • Handover is a critical opportunity to explain to residents how to operate their homes in different seasons – and outline any maintenance they might need.
  • Prepare clear instructions, and leave a simple summary for householders to refer to afterwards.
  • Do not assume that actual carbon emissions have any link to estimates of emissions needed for planning consents (also used in Energy Performance Certificates).
  • Do not rely on Building Regulations alone to limit energy use and carbon emissions from new buildings.
  • Biomass heating and heat pumps are no guarantee of low-carbon emissions.

Non-Domestic Buildings – recommendations

  • Put simplicity first – especially when it comes to controls
  • Do not substitute systems and controls for lower-cost alternatives if they are harder to use – and potentially unmanageable.
  • For Passive House projects, find contractors experienced in meeting Passive House standards.
  • Ensure all operatives understand the importance of airtightness, and how to avoid puncturing an air barrier.
  • Allow extra time in the programme for innovative systems. Installation often takes longer than expected, and full commissioning before handover is essential.
  • Ensure individual installers have previously and successfully installed the systems you are using in similar contexts.

Making reality match design

These report recommendations are a useful starting point if we are to narrow the gap between theoretical savings and real savings in carbon emmissions.

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