Get Climate Ready: Moving Towards Low Energy and Low Carbon Buildings

25 November 2013

Thermal Image photo

On Tuesday 5 November, The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) held an Oxfordshire Network Event at Oxford Brookes, which reviewed the need for buildings to become low energy, low carbon and climate ready.

The IET is a world leading professional organisation which shares knowledge to promote science, engineering and technology. The Oxfordshire Network Event was organised to help researchers, built environment professionals and designers better understand the need for effective housing adaption methods now and in the future.

The lecture was directed and introduced by Rajat Gupta, Professor of Sustainable Architecture and Climate Change and Director of the multi-disciplinary Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) and Low Carbon Building Group at Oxford Brookes. Rajat began by giving an overview of the work of OISD and their current low carbon projects. OISD is one of the UK’s largest research institutes committed to sustainable development research. The breadth of this research is particularly important as reducing energy use in buildings is a complex, multi-dimensional problem with problematic factors such as occupant behaviours, building design and construction, installed equipment and the changing climate.

During the lecture, Professor Rajat Gupta shared OISD findings to highlight key issues and concerns raised by current research projects. Recently, the Low Carbon Building Research Group at Oxford Brookes’ School of Architecture completed five ‘Design for Future Climate’ projects in close collaboration with leading architectural and engineering practices. These were all funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) enabling the development, testing and implementation of strong climate change adaption strategies. Projects have included a new eco- town development, two low impact schools and two sustainable healthcare buildings, all located in the UK.

The UK Government has set a target to achieve ‘zero carbon’ new housing from 2016, but flaws are already being found that could undermine the new policy. Overheating is being driven by climate change, and this was found to be the key risk to buildings across all of the projects, a risk agreed by recent government reports. Research suggests that instances of overheating are already increasing; which will be aggravated by predicted warming climate changes. In the future winters will be wetter and warmer, and summers will be warmer and drier, and today, incidences of extreme weather events are already affecting people all over the world.

The five research projects undertaken by OISD have shown that improved standards of air tightness, increased levels of insulation and greater reliance on ventilation in new build low and zero carbon buildings can only further overheating. Unless this is addressed at the early design stage, the future of zero carbon new housing will be plagued by building performance issues and climate adaptation methods will remain limited.

Further information: OISD Low Carbon Building (LCB) Group, Oxford Brookes University