Why building performance matters

Closing the performance gap to meet the UK’s Net Zero targets

Research from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) states “there is significant evidence to suggest that buildings do not perform as well as anticipated at design stage, with the gap between modelled and actual energy performance sometimes exceeding twice the initial prediction.” This statistic, coupled with the built environment contributing nearly 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint - half from energy usage - means building energy efficient buildings has never been so critical.

Launching Energy SynergyTM

As calls to action go, the above statistics are a clear one explains Alasdair. “As a core value, we want to offer energy performance optimisation as standard on all projects, leaving a true built environment legacy. Our industry-leading Energy SynergyTM team is exploring how this might be done.

“To explore ways in which we could improve understanding of the issue, in 2017 we pulled together a team of M&E and sustainability experts across the business to conduct long term studies on several our projects. We named the process Energy SynergyTM.

“The Energy SynergyTM process gathers ongoing, detailed measurements of a building’s in use energy performance and compares it to our modelled energy performance target data. We produce regular reports, comparing target with actual performance for a period of 2-3 years after handover. The process can be applied to any new or refurbished building once in operation.

“Energy SynergyTM is helping us understand the factors that affect energy performance - such as unrealistic energy modelling, design and systems management that is not focused on operational outcomes, and commissioning processes that are not robust enough – and allows us to rectify these issues early on.

“So far, our approach has saved customers between 5-15% in energy/operating costs, reduced associated carbon emissions, and is informing design and procurement decisions on our future builds."

Some examples of Energy SynergyTM in practice include:

Warwick Sports and Wellness Hub

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Our most high profile Energy SynergyTM project, after handing over in April 2019, we continued our relationship with the University of Warwick, through embedding Energy SynergyTM building performance improvement strategy into the after-build service. This involved monitoring operational usage across twelve categories from heating, ventilation and pumps through to domestic hot water. Within the first year, Energy SynergyTM was delivering energy savings of £40,236 and a carbon saving of 98,520 kgCO2e.”

The service has been well received, with Joel Cardinal, head of energy and sustainability, University of Warwick stating:

“The Energy SynergyTM process implemented by Willmott Dixon is very comprehensive. Over the last ten years we have reduced our overall energy by 46% across our campus. If we hadn’t had good relationships and good contribution from Willmott Dixon overall, our buildings would consume more energy and we would have not achieved that reduction.”

Powys Schools


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Following the build, we have worked in tandem with Powys Council across five schools in the region to embed our Energy SynergyTM process. Through Energy SynergyTM and our collaborative approach with the customer, we have achieved savings of over £4k a year.

Exeter Police Station

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Following handover in the Spring, We delivered the UK’s first BREEAM Excellent police station for Devon and Cornwall Police and identified further ‘in use’ operation cost savings through our Energy SynergyTM process.

Huge potential for significantly reducing wasted energy usage

Alasdair concludes by looking to the future, “From our experience so far, we are seeing the impressive impact of Energy Synergy on individual buildings – but at scale it can be huge. Having a process that robustly measures and verifies actual performance on buildings, in relation to design intent, is a key aspect of the Advancing Net Zero Framework advocated by UK Green Building Council and The London Energy Transformation Initiative.

“We have to show what’s possible and what’s achievable in applying this framework on our new and refurbished building projects. If we can reduce designed energy usage, combine it with renewable energy generation and ensure no performance gap in use, then we can work towards getting to that net zero target.

“Let’s embrace new ways of doing things such as Passivhaus, Better Buildings Partnership’s Design for Performance approach, the UK Green Building Council’s net zero approach, BSRIA’s Soft Landings Framework and our own Energy SynergyTM process, to help get us there.”