Refurbishment addresses energy-supply concerns

Published:  03 December, 2012

CIBSE, maintenance, refurbishment
Energy efficiency versus energy supply — Hywel Davies.

CIBSE’s Hywel Davies believes that energy-efficient refurbishment is an effective way of addressing concerns about the future of our energy supply.

The European Union has adopted an ambitious package of climate and energy measures known as the 20-20-20 targets. This binding legislation aims to ensure that the EU meets its ambitious climate and energy targets for 2020. The package sets three key objectives for 2020: a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels; increasing EU energy generation from renewable resources to 20%; a 20% improvement in the EU's energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is the subject of the 2011 Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which sets out a range of measures to reduce energy consumption in buildings.

A major element of the package focuses on the potential role of the public sector in delivering and demonstrating improved energy performance of buildings. The section of the action plan covering the role of the public sector ‘leading by example’ addresses ‘renovation of public buildings’. It proposes, ‘Public bodies should take the lead in bringing their buildings up to high energy performance levels. In order to achieve this result it would be appropriate for public authorities at least to double the current renovation rate.’ It goes on to propose that ‘each refurbishment should bring the building up to the level of the best 10% of the national building stock’.

So the EU is very keen to see far more emphasis on energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings, especially public-sector buildings. But there is also a growing concern about how the UK will keep the lights on over the next few years. With the retirement of ageing nuclear reactors continuing, and a number of older coal fired electricity generating units due to be closed due to stricter emissions controls over the coming three years, there is a growing concern about the ability of the remaining generating plant to meet the UK demand for power.

Faced with this pressure on future energy supply, it would be quite rational to give even greater prominence to energy efficiency, since it offers a cost-effective route to reduce the demand for energy across the EU. Whilst this seems to be a link that policy makers are not at all keen to make yet, it is an argument that CIBSE is making. And in doing so, the recent revision of ‘CIBSE Guide F, Energy Efficiency in Buildings’ provides a very timely and helpful guide for those who want to tackle energy-efficient refurbishment.

Guide F is now in its third edition and provides a wealth of guidance on how to achieve greater energy efficiency in buildings. Part A focuses on new buildings, whilst Part B addresses the operation and upgrading of existing buildings. It sets out the various rules and regulations relating to the energy aspects of building refurbishment, and sets out how to estimate the likely energy consumption in the refurbished building and its energy performance. There is also a process flowchart that guides users through the various steps in a refurbishment project, from the initial preparatory work, including gaining a good understanding of the existing building and how it performs, through design of the refurbishment and its subsequent installation, and finally into day-to-day operation.

CIBSE, maintenance, refurbishment
Timely and helpful guidance for those who want to tackle energy-efficient refurbishment — CIBSE Guide F.

The guidance explores the refurbishment options from minor changes to, for example, lighting systems, through to a complete refurbishment that involves the total replacement of plant and major changes to the building fabric. It also set out a table of the various measures and their relative cost effectiveness or payback times.

Not surprisingly, improved lighting features highly — whether that be improved provision of natural lighting or the replacement of lamps or light fittings with products using less energy. Reducing solar gain is another relatively low-cost measure, along with improved controls, (and improved training of users to enable them to understand and use, and not abuse or override, them). After that, use of high-efficiency motors and inverter drives and improvements to hot-water systems complete the list.

A corresponding table describes more-intrusive or expensive measures to consider for more major projects, including plant upgrades or changes, improvements to the fabric and changes to the ventilation strategy or systems. These are items that should be considered in every building when it is time to refurbish or upgrade.

With the growing uncertainty about keeping the lights on, sooner or later the policy makers will realise that using less power is a very simple and relatively quick way to reduce demand and buy time to resolve the more difficult supply-side issues. It also offers gainful employment and economic activity for those engaged in the work, and buildings better able to meet the various legislative requirements of the EU 20-20-20 strategy as it unfolds.

CIBSE Guide F: Energy Efficiency in Buildings is available from, It is also freely available to CIBSE members on the Knowledge Portal, link below.

Hywel Davies is technical director of CIBSE.

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