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Existing Modular Buildings Are Energy Efficient Too

The Government is pushing forward relentlessly with lowering the energy consumption of buildings, but we are concerned that the latest...

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The Government is pushing forward relentlessly with lowering the energy consumption of buildings, but we are concerned that the latest forthcoming EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive may not properly acknowledge the unique energy saving status of portable buildings.

The EU directive sets a future target of nearly zero energy buildings, and we move further towards this objective with the latest consultation on revisions, to be implemented in the 2013 Part L Building Regulations which come into effect from 6th April 2014. There is a zero-carbon non-domestic building objective by 2019. As an industry we are obviously committed to further enhancing the energy saving capabilities of all our new buildings, but there are perfectly valid reasons for not clobbering the pre-owned building stock of the UK with onerous energy saving requirements.

Currently, an adjustment factor is used when calculating the target energy emissions rate for all buildings manufactured before the current October 2010 regulations. This sensibly compensates for their slight increases in operating energy demand. Why should this compensation factor be retained in the new regulations?

Well, recycling a pre-owned building reduces the amount of energy used by up to 90%, compared to creating a new modular building from scratch. The energy savings are embodied within this pre-existing structure, and the marginally worse continuing energy consumption is more than balanced by these major embodied energy facts.

To draw an analogy, it wouldn’t be sensible to require each and every used car to have a high efficiency engine transplant at resale to attempt to get their fuel consumption down to the latest possible figures. Recent pre-owned vehicles often have considerable life left in them, and their considerable construction energy costs need to be paid back with continuing use, albeit that they may use slightly more fuel than a new one. This is the case with portable and modular buildings, too.

Modular Building Consultants Ltd, a highly respected independent consultancy, have an excellent article on this subject which reflects our concerns. We must continue to make our current UK pre-owned portable building stock an economic proposition to refurbish and use again in a different setting. Wilfully sacrificing massive amounts of embodied energy at the altar of energy emissions simply isn’t efficient – let’s hope common sense prevails when the legislation is finalised.