November 1st 2023

Embracing 'Design for Performance' in Commercial Real Estate with NABERS UK

Embracing 'Design for Performance' in Commercial Real Estate with NABERS UK

The UK building sector has for too long, been hindered by a “Design for Compliance” culture, where building developments are too focused on meeting theoretical targets set out in energy compliance regulations, such as Part L2 or Section 6, and not adequately acknowledging other operational performance elements.

This culture has led to a common problem – the performance gap. Many constructed buildings are falling short of their theoretical design, causing headaches like increased operational costs and less-than-impressive energy efficiency. But here's the exciting part: there's a promising shift happening. In an attempt to alleviate these issues, a move towards a “Design for Performance” culture is being encouraged by building institutions in the UK. The approach includes more detailed performance modelling during the design stage, and  post occupancy evaluation of the building’s operational performance. It's all about ensuring that project teams take responsibility for delivering a building that not only checks the compliance boxes but also lives up to its real-world operational performance expectations.

NABERS UK is a Design for Performance certification scheme targeting improved and more predictable performance. A Design for Performance project benefits asset owners, developers and tenants, as when applied correctly, the NABERS UK scheme can reduce operational costs, and a NABERS rating can be a powerful marketing tool that strengthens an asset’s investment profile. IES have long championed a move towards Design for Performance, and have both the software and experienced personnel to deliver detailed operational building performance analysis required for the NABERS process and beyond.

As part of the journey toward achieving a NABERS rating, a comprehensive report must be submitted, detailing a dynamic simulation of the building's thermal conditions, weather impacts, internal gains, and the thermal characteristics of the building. The output from this model covers essential aspects like energy consumption, internal temperatures, equipment loads, and plant loads. IES' flagship software, the Virtual Environment (VE), is the perfect tool to create this dynamic simulation, and it's already seamlessly integrated into many building design workflows. Leveraging the VE, IES can be commissioned to create the building energy model essential to estimating the operational energy consumption of the building and producing the required NABERS Energy Report.

Once a building is operational, NABERS requires a 12-month validation period that kicks off when the occupancy reaches at least 75%. At the end of this period, the building's actual energy consumption is compared to the energy model, and a decision is made on what rating the building has achieved. IES can assist during this evaluation period through use of iSCAN, our building optimisation and data platform for operational buildings. iSCAN can be connected to the building for monitoring and measurement, creating a link between the simulation model and the real building, allowing the user to compare the proposed performance model to the real data being produced by the active building. This is a powerful way of closely monitoring the progress of the evaluation period and ensuring the building’s performance stays in line with the targeted NABERS rating. This data can also be used for many different outcomes such as portfolio and asset management, retrofit projects, decarbonisation pathways, and health and wellbeing monitoring.

The NABERS process and the Design for Performance principle are a great incentive to create a powerful and valuable operational simulation model. This simulation model can become a digital twin with its connection to the real building and can be used for many outcomes over the lifecycle of the building. Creating a digital twin extracts increased value from the NABERS process, by creating a virtual asset that can exist alongside the building for its entire life being used for multiple projects and leveraged for decarbonisation investment planning and performance monitoring and optimisation.

IES has recently launched a new industry whitepaper exploring the potential of a whole-life building performance modelling approach. The paper brings together influential voices from across the built environment sector to discuss the importance of whole-life performance modelling and the challenges and barriers associated with industry adoption of this approach. Insight is also drawn from an industry-wide survey of 243 AEC professionals and building owners and occupiers. 

Download the full whitepaper