The performance gap between design and built performance is a well-documented and contentious issue in the construction industry, especially in relation to a building’s energy usage and consumption. Although the debate has garnered a high-level of attention, practical solutions are yet to be outlined and resolved.
To drive this important industry change, the Insulation Manufacturers Association (IMA) and fellow representatives participated in a dynamic and thought-provoking roundtable discussing the problematic performance gaps between design and built performance. Taking place recently at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, the roundtable explored the detrimental effect the performance gap is having on energy use in buildings.
The debate sparked various opinions and insights, however the ultimate question is:  what can we do to reduce the performance gap? Is it not about managing expectations?
Attended by industry experts, discussion flowed throughout the event, with key areas emerging as top-priority points for further perusal including: targeting the performance gaps in the design and installation stages of a project.
The roundtable proceeded to debate the various actions the industry can take to offer solutions to these issues including; housebuilder accountability, better public and client education and more rigorous building performance legislation. With a building’s energy consumption often up to twice the amount than initially predicted, it is high time that this issue was tackled, in order to make buildings better, safer and more energy-efficient.
No housebuilder wants to be seen as taking a risk when it comes to building homes for people to live in. However, with more and more companies using ‘value engineering’ to stay on course with the government’s demands to build more homes, corners are, inevitably, cut. Whether it’s a labourer modifying a complex installation onsite without the knowledge to do so or simple product substitution, this ‘make-do’ mentality of working must change. Companies must be held accountable for any under-performance, especially if it is compromising a building’s long-term efficiency and safety.
Managing expectations
Building owners really need to be better educated about what they should expect and demand from their building. When it comes to house-buying, the majority of potential homeowners are often more focussed on the shade of their timber flooring rather than whether their building is equipped with the thermal efficiency to meet current and future standards. Homeowners simply lack insight on how their buildings perform, so when they underperform, they really are none the wiser.
This is, in part, a result of little to no education on what homeowners can expect from a building. Homeowners can see and touch their flooring or walls but they can’t see their building’s key fabric components, such as the wall or floor insulation. By providing a more comprehensive, holistic view of the internal properties of a building, the public will have a more robust perception of how their building should be performing. Improved transparency will benefit all.
Not only does the public’s expectation in terms of housing require attention, the clients for non-domestic buildings also need to be instructed. And this is in everyone’s interest. All clients would benefit from an improved understanding of how a building should perform. Learning about a building’s mechanics will ensure clients place more focus on occupant health and wellbeing as opposed to mere aesthetics – and meeting their KPIs.
More rigorous inspection and compliance  
In order to truly address and reduce the performance gap, the industry is ultimately reliant on standards being met and decision-makers being held accountable. There must be rigorous inspection and compliance to ensure all regulations are met. We can no longer accept underperforming buildings just because there are not enough people with sufficient knowledge or authority asking the right questions. With this model, all we are doing is stacking up problems for the future as well as cheating the current buyers and occupants.  
IMA was delighted to hold such a compelling roundtable which created a space for industry experts to share their perspectives on the performance gaps from design to construction. The event was a great opportunity to share important insights on this crucial topic.
As a collective, the industry recognises the problems. We also have the ability to meet the higher standards that many are crying out for. The current model is not working, but will the cultural change that the industry needs be adopted so that issues like the damaging performance gap become a thing of the past?
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