FABRIC-FIRST IS A ROUTE TO NET ZERO BUILDINGS

With the UK the first member of the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050, tackling the inefficiency of new and existing building stock will be essential to achieve this ambitious goal. A well-designed, fully insulated building fabric is a key measure which will make a significant contribution to reducing heat loss, improving energy consumption and cutting carbon emissions.

According to the recent report by the Committee on Climate Change – UK Housing: Fit for the Future, the UK must reduce emissions by at least 3% a year to meet future carbon targets. This will not be possible without tackling the inefficiency of new and existing building stock. Good insulation is essential if UK homes and buildings are to become more energy efficient and sustainable and off-set some of the increasing energy costs and climate change conditions. The fabric-first approach to energy efficiency ensures that a thermally insulated building envelope will achieve high performance, low maintenance, reduced energy bills and long-term energy efficiency.

Some improvements have been made over recent years and plenty of our draughty, leaky and inefficient homes are better than they were. But we still have many homes that are woefully inadequate, with occupants and owners either unaware or unwilling to understand even the basic energy improvements that could and should be carried out.

The thermal performance of a building envelope makes a significant contribution to reducing the overall building energy usage – so tighter U-values in walls, floors and roofs will help to deliver the standards required. To achieve this, PIR and PUR insulation offers a highly effective solution, achieving excellent levels of thermal performance. It’s versatility is testament to the fact that this insulation is available as boards and blocks, cavity injection, composite panels as well as a spray and panel insulation.

However, in order to meet the design values of a project, fabric insulation should be correctly fitted with appropriate attention paid to airtightness and cold bridging. Competency in installation is vital because when a high performing product such as PIR/PUR is installed incorrectly, it could compromise that performance. This is why IMA is producing a series of installation guides for the differing applications of the products, since contractors need to make sure that, not only the levels of site supervision are of a good standard, but that products are properly installed to avoid cold bridging and other problems. Eliminating poor installation will drastically reduce heat loss.

Having a more energy efficient building fabric from the outset means that the building can then be upgraded later on through improved services such as the addition of renewable technologies.

Ultimately, the ‘fabric-first’ approach will remain the most direct route to achieving the net zero target as well as compliance with the energy performance requirements of Building Regulations. When a structure is built correctly in the first place it will continue to perform as intended for many years to come.

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