State of the nation study on new build housing reveals gap between design and reality

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

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A new report published by researchers at Oxford Brookes University has revealed for the first time a detailed national picture of the actual performance of new build homes through a detailed analysis of building performance evaluation projects.

With the UK committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, the report will provide building professionals with key insights to inform future design of homes.

Researchers have developed an online and interactive map on housing performance that shows 91 performance evaluation studies across the UK. Analysis of data on actual energy use, thermal performance, building fabric performance, environmental performance and feedback from occupants has provided insight into housing performance at scale.

New-build dwellings were found to often underperform compared to actual design specifications, with energy use up to three times higher than predicted. Heat loss around openings such as doors and windows was identified as a particular problem showing a need for developers to improve detailing, specification and workmanship.

The state of the nation study helps us to better understand at scale, the gap between expected and actual housing performance so as to improve the design and delivery of new homes and upgrading of existing ones.

Professor Rajat Gupta, Low Carbon Building Research Group, Oxford Brookes University

The inaugural research for the Building Performance Network, an independent not for profit organisation, was led by Professor Rajat Gupta and Matt Gregg of the Low Carbon Building Research Group, part of the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes.

Professor Gupta said: “Understanding how in reality homes are built, used and perform is vital to ensure our national carbon targets are met.

“The state of the nation study helps us to better understand at scale, the gap between expected and actual housing performance so as to improve the design and delivery of new homes and upgrading of existing ones.

“While there have been a number of studies in recent years to examine energy performance of new homes, this report looks ahead at how the study of our homes may include a detailed picture of energy demand as well as health and wellbeing of residents using smart meters, Internet of Things based sensors and wearables.”

George Martin, Chair of Building Performance Network, said: “The UK suffers from a disjointed building performance evaluation (BPE) sector, where data are inaccessible, study methods are not clear or shared, and decisions are often made on poor or limited data. Though many studies exist, access to these studies, their findings, and most importantly the knowledge from it, is limited.

“This piece of work brings that together and makes it more available to a wider audience. Most importantly, it highlights the gains to be made from measuring and testing new homes, and illuminates a path for those that wish to undertake BPE. With a look ahead at the future of BPE, with this report, we are strengthening our message that the future of UK housing must include measuring and monitoring.  We are delighted to present this work to the world.”

The full report can be downloaded here and a summary of the report's key findings can be downloaded here