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PPA : Spinnaker Tower
PPA : Spinnaker Tower

Stop Building Boxes

The Secretary of State for Department for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has called upon house builders to stop building boxes and start building homes that reflect regional differences.  He said “I don’t want little boxes looking the same in Aberdeen as, say, Portsmouth”. This got me thinking.  A lot of people I know would expect to be able to pick out from a set of stereotypical photos of people, a French man and from a series of stereotypical photos of houses, his French house and similarly perhaps the Eskimo and his house, a Chinese person and their dwelling etc etc and given a series of stereotypical photos a matching game could be played with some success.  One could construe each person has a house that has evolved to suit their needs, given their location.

That then are the fundamental needs that vary between Aberdeen and Portsmouth that would lead to significant differences in design of the respective areas housing that Mr Pickles alludes to.  Sitting in a traffic jam in Kingston Upon Thames I noted my 1930’s Portsmouth property was replicated in a few roads, as it is in Havant and I dare say many other Towns and Cities across Britain in much the same way as a given builders ‘Royal Oaks Type’ property is likely to be built in Aberdeen and Portsmouth and every City in between. Given a field in which to build and a blank piece of paper on which to design a property, to a budget, would that house look the same in both locations? I dare say it might.  In the past the ‘Granite City’ housing would make use of locally available materials thereby reducing costs but with better infrastructure enabling materials to be move freely around the UK those regional differences perhaps no longer exist.  Is there or should there be such a thing as a Portsmouth property and if so what is it and how does it vary from that in other Towns and Cities. I am sure we could all design our own houses, dream houses and more practical houses which I suspect would incorporate all the usual facilities but would we draw something different to the Aberdonian undertaking the same exercise. Sadly I think not

John Blake : Warner Goodman
Members: Claire Battye, John Blake

Commercial EPCs – What Are They?

At first glance a Commercial Energy Performance Certificate looks very similar to a domestic EPC, but they are quite different creatures. The commercial assessor does a detailed analysis of the building ‘envelope’ – all its many walls, doors, windows, ceilings roofs, floors etc. as well as its heating, lighting, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Each area of the building is mapped as an ‘activity zone’ describing what takes place there and the air-flow calculated.

Commercial buildings fall into 3 categories (3, 4 & 5) depending on their characteristics and only an assessor qualified to the appropriate level can produce the certificate. Typically, simple buildings can be Level 3, air-conditioned buildings Level 4 and a few buildings with special ventilation strategies Level  5. The EPC rates the building against similar buildings and new ones.

Each EPC comes with a ‘Recommendations Report’ which says what can be done to improve the energy rating. Some assessors are able to produce the EPC quickly from 3D modelling software such as ‘Carbon Checker’ and can easily do ‘what if’ analyses to tell you the savings from proposed improvements,

All commercial premises require an EPC whenever the ownership, lease or the mortgage changes and your solicitor can’t complete the legalities until he has the certificate, which has a nasty habit of making things grind to a halt while an urgent call goes out for an energy assessor. The legal requirement is for an EPC to be prepared before the premises are advertised, so the top tip is to book the EPC up-front and take a few minutes to read it when it arrives – a few proposed improvements can often save the new occupant a lot in fuel bills!

Simon Burton is a Level 4 Commercial Energy Assessor with Property Metrics.

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