Soft Landings for Schools. Case studies of strengths, weaknesses and difficulties and opportunities in applying Soft Landings to projects in the Government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, extracting strategic and detailed findings. It was funded by the Technology Strategy Board, with in-kind contributions of time by UBT and the design and building teams involved, and some of their clients. From In 2008-10 we also assisted the Technology Strategy Board (today called Innovate UK) with feasibility, planning and design of its £ 8 million Building Performance Evaluation programme: undertaken from 2010-14, this included in-use performance studies of 50 new non-domestic buildings and 50 housing projects - ranging from individual dwellings to large sites.
BUS Methodology agree that the BUS Occupant survey may be offered under a free licence to postgraduate students working under supervision. The scheme to be operated by the Usable Buildings Trust.
Display Energy Certificates and the Carbon Reduction Commitment. UBT was active on the UK Green Building’s Task Group which produced a report advocating the extension of Display Energy Certificates to commercial buildings. As a result, commercial DECs were included in the 2011 Energy Bill and supported in its First and Second Readings, but were struck out of the Energy Act at the last minute, reportedly by the Treasury.
Responsible Retrofit. UBT contributed to research into the information available to clients, designers and builders regarding the energy-efficient refurbishment of traditional buildings, especially solid-walled buildings. Its report was published by the newly-formed Sustainable Traditional Buildings Association, STBA. The study found that the information base was shaky, and warned of unintended consequences from the government’s proposed Green Deal and other projects affecting the existing building stock. While the Department of Energy and Climate Change contributed to the costs of the work, the advice went mostly unheeded. A few years afterwards, major problems are emerging, in particular in relation to moisture, toxic mould, timber decay, poor air quality and occupant health. In the worst cases, insulation has had to be stripped off. Some houses have even had to be evacuated.
Responsible Retrofit Guidance Wheel., developed with STBA. A user-friendly web interface that draws upon information from the STBA Responsible Refurbishment report and elsewhere to help identify and manage the risks associated with energy-efficient alterations and refurbishments of traditional buildings. It uses principles UBT developed with English Heritage in the so-called Triage system prototype, in which proposed measures could be classified as safe, risky or dangerous and tracked and managed over time, using an Excel workbook.
New Professionalism. In 2008, UBT began to advocate a new professionalism from built environment professions, and in particular more engagement with in-use outcomes. We claimed that a failure to do so breached a professional’s duty of care to the public, with particular respect to sustainability. This led to a number of discussions and presentations – including an Edge Debate and a keynote at the biennial International Sustainable Buildings conference 2011, in Helsinki. UBT was then invited to edit a Special Issue of Building Research & Information on the topic, published in early 2013. Since then, the subject has been pursued by UBT and others, particularly the Edge, which held another debate, set up an Inquiry into the professional institutions, published as Collaboration for Change in 2015. An Edge member subsequently wrote a book on the history of these institutions.
Landlord’s Energy Rating (LER), Feasibility Study and Case Studies, with the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) and Verco. When the government did not mandate Display Energy Certificates in the commercial sector, UK property investors and landlords sought their own rating for the energy efficiency of landlord’s services in rented buildings. Inspired by the success of NABERS Energy in transforming the market for energy efficiency of prime offices in Australia, they wanted an investment-grade rating: UBT’s low-cost Landlord’s Energy Statement developed with BPF was not authoritative enough, and large prime offices could afford a more expensive system. A suitable rating was devised, but studies of individual buildings showed that it could not be applied readily in the UK because – unlike in most of Australia - landlord’s gas and electricity supplies are not separately metered. Nor are the building services in most offices organised in such a way that effective metering can be retrofitted at an affordable cost.
From 2014-18, key UBT members suffered major health problems, making little new research possible. Work on the Landlord’s Energy Rating continued, particularly on the potential for a Commitment Agreement protocol to eliminate the “performance gap” between design predictions and in-use outcomes for new office buildings and major refurbishments, following the success of this approach in Australia.
Design for Performance feasibility studies, with the Better Buildings Partnership and Verco. This tested the idea of a Commitment Agreement on a selection of UK office projects being briefed, designed, under construction, before handover, and in occupation. Thanks to an anonymous donation, UBT was able to assist this project, both with our own input and by funding advice from the experts who designed and continue to support the NABERS Energy system in Australia, and the people who now run it. The report was launched to a packed audience in October, with a re-run with the British Council for Offices in a larger venue in Feb 2018. Nine major property companies have signed up to Pioneer projects, where they will apply the protocol to at least one future development.
Usable Buildings hosts an archive of the Building Performance Evaluation case studies funded by the UK's then Department of Business Innovation and Skills between 2010 and 2015, and carried out under the Technology Strategy Board (later Innovate UK). Thanks to Roderic Bunn.
UBT’s work has been recognised in several awards to our members, in particular an honorary fellowship of the RIBA in 2001, an honorary fellowship of CIBSE in 2007, CIBSE’s very first low-carbon pioneer award in 2008, a medal for the best technical contribution to the UK Green Building Council in 2011, and an OBE in 2013.
This all indicates that UBT has made a significant contribution to building performance analysis worldwide. The academic websites Google Scholar and ResearchGate list thousands of citations to UBT publications, many written for professional journals and not primarily academic. Growing academic interest in this work may have downsides, with focus on real-world performance lost to introspection. UBT is also frustrated by a reluctance of funding bodies to support routine feedback, preferring blue-sky innovation to learning from experience and sharing the results.
More important than all of this is climate change. Serious scientific warnings in the 1980s led to Margaret Thatcher’s addresses to the Royal Society and the United Nations in 1989, initiating more than a decade of strong UK leadership. Sadly, in the 21st Century, ideology and short-term self-interest has prevailed. While UBT can be seen as successful in the terms it set itself 20 years ago, radical change has become necessary - the need to Do It Now.
UBT Trustees 2002-2019 (alphabetical) Denise Bennetts, Roderic Bunn, Sir Andrew Derbyshire, Joanna Eley, John Field, Jim Meikle.
Significant supporters and contributors (alphabetical)
Barry Austin, Paul Bannister
, Mike Buckley, Roderic Bunn,