Design for Performance

The Design for Performance Project is an industry initiative supported, funded and overseen by 22 Project Partners, including: ARUP, BBP, BCO, BSRIA, BPF, British Land, CIBSE, The Crown Estate, BEIS, EDSL, Energy Action, Laing O’Rourke, LGIM Real Estate, NG Bailey, New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, Stanhope, TH Real Estate, Transport for London, UKGBC, Usable Buildings Trust, VERCO, Willmott Dixon.

The project aims to change the way we design new office developments in the UK. The project looks abroad to the hugely successful Australian NABERS Commitment Agreement and explores the applicability and opportunity of developing and testing such a framework in the UK.

The energy efficiency of new offices in the UK is subject to Building Regulations Part L and represented in market transactions by Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). Developers, owners and occupiers of new and refurbished buildings might reasonably expect that these mechanisms will produce a building that is energy efficient in operation. However, both focus on design and technology that improves predicted building performance, not on achieving directly measureable improvements in performance in-use.

The consequence has been a design-for-compliance culture, and a disconnect between the regulatory framework and the influence it has on the energy use and associated carbon emissions it is supposed to be limiting – the so-called ‘Performance Gap’. Voluntary environmental design rating schemes such as BREEAM and LEED reinforce this mentality, with only BREEAM Outstanding requiring performance in-use to be considered. This approach is further exacerbated by a fragmented industry with stakeholders focusing only on what they need to deliver, not on what the building needs to deliver to the end user and investor.

By contrast, Australia’s NABERS office energy rating scheme targets the actual in-use energy performance of the ‘Base Building’ (services typically under control of the property owner i.e. the heating, hot water, ventilation and air-conditioning of the whole building, light and power in common areas, and the lifts). For new office developments, a framework has been established whereby clients, developers and their teams sign up to – and then follow - a “Commitment Agreement” protocol to design, construct and manage buildings to achieve agreed levels of actual in-use performance. Since its introduction in 2002, its effect has been transformational and as a consequence created a design-for-performance culture, with typical new office Base Buildings using about half the energy they did when the system was introduced and the very best one-fifth as much.

The Design for Performance Project completed a feasibility study in May 2016 assessing whether such a Commitment Agreement Protocol and the design-for-performance culture could be applied. The project then undertook an 18-month pilot study to test the ingredients of such a protocol on real office developments.

The Feasibility Study confirmed that there were no insurmountable reasons why a base building performance verification scheme could not be implemented in the UK. The Pilot Studies confirmed findings demonstrated both the potential for, and urgent need of, application of DfP in the UK market. A summary of the pilot study findings will be published at the end of October 2018.

The findings of the DfP Project were shared with the wider industry at an event on 16th October 2018. At this event a number of key announcements concerning the future of DfP were made.

The project will now be supported by 7 DfP Pioneers: The Crown Estate, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Great Portland Estates plc, Landsec, Lendlease, LGIM Real Assets & TH Real Estate.

These Pioneers will provide funding to support the development of a technical specification for the scheme and be implementing DfP in full on at least one project in their development pipeline.

The project is also seeking the support of DfP Pioneer Delivery Partners, the first of these Delivery Partners are Ove Arup & Partners & Cundall – major M&E practices who will be integrating DfP into the delivery of building services, advocating the adoption of DfP to their clients and upskilling to support the delivery of DfP.

The Better Buildings Partnership & NABERS are also in advanced discussions concerning a partnership to support the delivery of DfP in the UK.

The project will continue to engage with a wide range of industry stakeholders – if you are interested in learning more about the project or getting involved, please do get in touch with Lucy Elderfield or Sarah Ratcliffe