The new London Plan requires building owners to verify and report on energy performance post-occupation – but how?
In addition to being “lean, clean and green”, buildings must now also “be seen” to be so. The mayor of London declared a climate emergency in December 2018 and set a target for London to be net zero carbon by 2030, and to this end the 2021 London Plan introduces the “be seen” policy through post-construction monitoring to identify whether new buildings are living up to their net zero credentials.
Currently, energy performance certificates and calculations under Part L provide information on the theoretical performance of buildings, but how far this predicted energy performance differs from the reality remains to be seen (pun intended). It is estimated that the actual usage of energy could be up to 10 times that predicted at the pre-construction stage.
The new fourth stage to the London Plan energy hierarchy attempts to bridge this gap. Major developments will be required to monitor their energy performance and report on it for at least five years post construction. This will apply to all major planning applications submitted after the adoption of the new London Plan.
Responsibility for data submission and its accuracy initially vests in the planning applicant – a challenging task, given the large number of parties involved
Responsibility for data submission and its accuracy initially vests in the planning applicant, who is expected to ensure all affected parties are aware of their responsibilities at subsequent reporting stages – a challenging task at the outset of a development, given the large number of parties likely to be involved. The energy performance and carbon monitoring information is likely to be generated by a number of parties, including the developer, consultants, contractors and their subcontractors.
The “be seen” framework is divided into three stages, with different parties responsible for providing different performance indicators and submitting data at each stage:
- At planning stage – the planning applicant
- At the as-built stage – the developer
- At the in-use stage – the legal building owner.
During the as-built stage, the developer must update the energy performance predictions. Post occupation, the legal owner must submit energy performance data annually for at least five years to the “be seen” portal. The obligation is on the building owner to identify the causes of any shortfall in performance and potential mitigation measures, which are to be submitted to the Greater London Authority (GLA).
If a development is sold before or during the five years post occupation, the developer faces the burden of passing on the relevant information on the “be seen” responsibilities to the new owner. This raises questions on who will remain liable for these obligations in future and their costs.
Another question for developers is: who foots the bill for the required technology? Incorporating technology and metering capable of providing this data will clearly come at a cost to developers, with consequential issues surrounding data protection to be wary of. The reporting also requires data from a wide range of indicators including grid electricity consumption, gas consumption, energy generation, renewable energy use, energy storage and carbon emissions. Managing this reporting and submitting this to the “be seen” portal is likely to require additional support, whether from an outside consultant or an internal monitoring team.
Not only are developers required to report on their energy performance, but they are also advised to adopt third-party verification mechanisms in order to ensure that their data is accurate. With multiple parties involved in collecting the energy monitoring data, it is unclear who will bear this cost.
Incorporating technology and metering capable of providing this data will clearly come at a cost to developers
But how is all this to be enforced? Although the guidance sets out the minimum requirements for the “be seen” policy, it does not specify what penalties (if any) stakeholders will face for failing to comply. At the planning stage, the developer will be asked by the local authority to confirm that the development is designed to enable the ongoing monitoring of energy performance and that the various responsible parties will submit the “be seen” indicators at the appropriate times.
The guidance notes that a legal agreement between the developer and the local authority should secure the as-built and in-use stage data and a template document will be made available for relevant stakeholders. While this document (when published) may provide more clarity, it seems to be up to the developer to flow these obligations down to the relevant responsible parties, without much incentive or freestanding obligation on those parties to comply.
For building owners, there is inherently some incentive in understanding the scale of the performance gap and trying to improve energy performance for occupants. However, for a developer to organise multiple parties to submit reporting data is a heavy administrative burden to continue for five years post occupation.
It is likely the data collected will be used by the GLA to establish best practice and report on the operational performance of new developments in London. This may have the potential to inform national policy through developing benchmarks.
Stephanie Canham is national head of projects and construction at Trowers & Hamlins