Bath report claims some building modellers ‘not fit for purpose’

A new report from Bath University has raised questions about the abilities of modellers to accurately measure the energy efficiency of new buildings.

(Credit: Lydia via CC)

According to the study, many building modelling professionals are no better than members of the public at assessing the energy performance of new homes and offices. This is leading to a large ‘performance gap’ between the predicted energy use and actual energy use of many buildings.

“The ‘performance gap’ is a problem that affects all new buildings as well as the refurbishment of older ones,” said lead investigator David Coley, Professor of Low Carbon Design at Bath University.

“Previous research has assumed the performance gap can be attributed to the construction and operation stages. However, we have revealed a new cause for the performance gap, that being the modelling illiteracy of building modelling professionals arising from the modellers being separated from the rest of the construction process and the final building.”

“The impact of the inaccuracies of building modelling professionals has severe financial and environmental implications for both the government’s global warming targets as well as building owners who are purchasing homes and other buildings that are sold to be energy efficient but in reality are not.”

The Bath team questioned 108 building modelling professionals on 21 energy-related aspects of a building, from the insulation in the walls to the temperature the heating was set to. According to the researchers, the respondents could not agree on which aspects were important, or how much difference to the energy bill changes to them would make. A quarter of those interviewed were found to perform no better than if a member of the public had responded at random. It was also revealed that qualifications or experience in the sector had no bearing on the accuracy of the respondents’ answers.

“Given our findings about how the level of relevant education and experience don’t separate the good modellers from the bad, we are calling on the government for educational and policy change to work with industry and universities to increase efforts in improving building physics education,” said co-investigator and senior lecturer in Bath’s Department of Psychology, Dr Ian Walker.

“Currently, an in-depth qualification for building modelling does not exist, meaning there is little formal training process for those entering the profession. If this aspect can be addressed, part of the ‘performance gap’ could rapidly be reduced.”