The energy assessment, created during the pre-planning stage, specifies the proposed levels of insulation, airtightness and other energy-related aspects as well as quantifying the predicted carbon emission performance relative to the Building Regulations benchmark and planning policy targets.
However, as a planning requirement, it is often seen as a tick-box exercise. And there are many non-engineering-based people that can produce a report that ticks this box, at a low cost. But this approach is a false economy in our view as the energy assessment is a very important document. Here’s 5 reasons why:
1. It sets the Energy Strategy for the entire development
There are many options for energy supply and use, and the energy assessment sets the course for the energy performance of the whole development.
A poorly conceived strategy ultimately means a poorly performing project. With energy monitoring and energy performance rising up the agenda, this a critical exercise to get right.
2. It can be an opportunity to promote the development
A good strategy can help a project secure planning permission. It can help highlight and promote the positive aspects of a development and innovations including aspects related to sustainability. For example, images can be created to help convey the whole strategy to the planners.
3. A well-conceived strategy can lead to costs savings
Demonstrating that a development meets the required CO2 emissions benchmark means entering a lot of data and ticking lots of boxes in compliance software (either SAP for dwellings or SBEM for other building types). Some options are more expensive than others in terms of capital costs, physical space requirements and the cost of upgrades needed elsewhere to allow the strategy to work.
Some elements also contribute more than others. So it is important to examine the data for each project and choose wisely.
4. Creating strategies that work
We have remedied many poorly conceived energy strategies prepared by others as part of the planning process. It is usually because there are better ways to achieve the same or improved performance.
Sometimes it is simply that the strategy doesn’t work from an engineering point of view or that space or utility constraints weren’t considered.
All this means having to redo the modelling and going back to the planning authorities. This adds unnecessary time and cost.
5. Identifying and capturing value
Saving on capital costs, saving on local infrastructure upgrades, reduced energy bills, financial incentives, additional income streams, reduced carbon taxation, future proofing and higher asset worth are all examples of how additional value can be capture through the energy strategy.
Flexible energy use and Demand Side Response (DSR) are some of the other key elements to improve energy strategies, while optioneering and a discounted cashflow (DCF) can accurately show the profitability of various low carbon and renewable energy options.
The humble Energy Assessment deserves a little more TLC and it’s good to see that new policy such as the latest London Plan and other Local Plans give more focus on Energy Assessments with new aspects such as performance monitoring.
We try to give our energy strategy reports a lot of attention and they are director-led in every case.