Low Energy Buildings Research

Low Energy Buildings – Currently a Token Impact?

The impact of human behaviour is responsible for a number of serious changes to the environment, yet the degree, if any,  to which human technical interventions can curb the growth in greenshouse gasses and negative impact on the environment remains to be seen.  Unfortunately, the real actions and technical interventions that could lead towards improvements in the built environment are overwhelmed by green promotion that has no substance. 

Research on the energy performance of the actual building fabric and services in their real natural environment, rather than a laboratory, is needed to understand the performance of the building system, yet this is limited.  The most comprehensive set of data on as-built building performance, is that conducted by the CeBE research group in Leeds (Figure 1).  

The research shows a significant gap between the expected performance of the building fabric and  that  which is actually built (Figure 1).  This means that buildings do not perform as they are designed to, losing considerably more heat energy than expected.  In some cases the heat loss is over a 100% worse than expected.  However, in a few recent cases, where the contractors and designers have learnt from previous studies the gap between the designed performance and that realised is narrowing, to a more normal tolerance.  Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. For significant energy reductions across the UK, dwellings must be consistently closer to their targets. Currently we are a long way off finding the building systems or refurbishment programmes that will roll out zero or low energy buildings.  

At the moment, the few examples of buildings that do get close to the design standard are just token gesture making no significant impact. Most of the buildings studied and researched are over 40% worse than designed. The most significant intervention in the last 20 years was the realisation that heat was being lost through the party wall.  A discovery made by the CeBE research group at Leedsmet.  As adjustments have now been made to regulations,  the saving per house for an 8x5m party wall should be in the region of 100kg of CO2 per annum,  a rough measurement suggests that this is saving three quarters of a million tonnes of CO2 per year.  The savings should be much greater as apartment have not been considered.   However, this one element of construction represents, a negligible contribution to the notion of a zero carbon home.

Unfortunately, the status quo, that is ‘low carbon’ exists only in promotion literature, fake ‘grand eco designs’ and a few isolated cases of low carbon developments. Real wholesale improvements to the building stock and reductions in energy use and greenhouse gases will  be a touchstone achievement, if ever achieved.  

The moment when buildings contribute zero emission is a long way off, if we are to take the current human actions and our limited knowledge of actual building performance.

The following heat loss graph represents a summary of the research led by Wingfield et al. (2011) at CeBE Leeds Metropolitan University. 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Figure 1. Comparison of measured versus predicted heat loss for New Build UK Dwelling (Wingfield et al. 2011)

Wingfield, J., Miles-Shenton, D. and Bell, M. (2011) Comparison of Measured versus Predicted Heat Loss for New Build UK Dwellings – Unpublished Data, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK

Links to information on Low Energy Buildings

Centre for the Built Environment – Leeds Metropolitan University www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe

Construction Knowledge Exchange http://ckegroup.org/

Green Vision – Sustainable Building Events www.green-vision.org.uk

2012 Basics

Distinguished Lecturer Series: Building Science – Adventures in Building Science: Joseph Lstiburek,


2011 Information on Low Energy Housing

Gentoo – WEARSIDE MP Bridget Phillipson has applauded efforts to revamp housing in her constituency. http://www.sunderlandecho.com/community/mp_takes_a_tour_of_estate_homes_1_3341873  Published on Tuesday 3 May 2011 11:07

ETM – One of LEDA’s presentations added to Masonry First


CCC renewables review published http://www.theccc.org.uk/reports/renewable-energy-review

Room to breath  House builders are developing homes to ever stricter airtightness standards. But is the health of residents at risk from the effects of inadequate ventilation? Emily Rogers investigates http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/ihstory.aspx?storycode=6514729

How easy is it to get tenants to adapt their lifestyle to a retrofitted home? Sustainable Housing is following a family over the next two years to find out. Nick Duxbury reports http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/sustainability/retro-living/6514731.article

APPLIED GEOGRAPHY – SEVENOAKS- VOL 31; NUMBER 2 (2011) pp. 712-720 ‘Helping People Make Better Choices’: Exploring the behaviour change agenda for environmental sustainability Barr, S.; Gilg, A.; Shaw, G.


ENERGY AND BUILDINGS VOL 42; NUMBER 12 (2010) pp. 2376-2385 Potential of wind barriers to assure airtightness of wood-frame low energy constructions Langmans, J.; Klein, R.; De Paepe, M.; Roels, S.


Canadian exhibition: Going green Industry experts tout what’s coming in eco-friendly building Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Going+green+Industry+experts+tout+what+coming+friendly+building/4733739/story.html#ixzz1LqjNcb2d

Boait PJ, Fana D & Stafford A (2011) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Performance and control of domestic ground-source heat pumps in retrofit installations.

Wingfield J, Johnston D, Miles-Shenton D & Bell M (2010) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Whole House Heat Loss Test Method (Coheating). Centre for the Built Environment, Leeds Metropolitan University

Wingfield J (2010) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Measurement of Thermal Bypasses, Centre for the Built Environment, Leeds Metropolitan University

Bell M (2005) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Learning to Tango: Sustainable Development and the Multidisciplinary Dream. In the conference proceedings of The 2005 World Sustainable Building Conference, Tokyo, 27-29 September 2005. http://www.sb05.com

Bell M (2004) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings: The Role of Building Regulations. In COBRA 2004 Proc. Of the RICS Foundation Construction and Building Research Conference. Edited by Robert Ellis and Malcolm Bell, London, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Gardner A & Bell M (2004) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Andrew Gardner and Malcolm Bell (2004) Energy Efficiency in Housing: An Evaluation of the importance of increased wall thickness on housing developments. In COBRA 2004 Proc. Of the RICS Foundation Construction and Building Research Conference. Edited by Robert Ellis and Malcolm Bell, London, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Johnston D, Miles Shenton D, Wingfield J & Bell M (2004) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Airtightness of UK Dwellings: some recent measurements. In COBRA 2004 Proc. Of the RICS Foundation Construction and Building Research Conference. Edited by Robert Ellis and Malcolm Bell, London, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Bell M & Overend P (2001) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Building Regulation and Energy Efficiency in Timber Frame Housing. In COBRA 2001 Proc. Of the RICS Foundation Construction and Building Research Conference. Edited by John Kelly and Kirsty Hunter, Glasgow Caledonian University, 3-5 September 2001, London, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Bell M & Lowe R (1999) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Sustainability and the Development of an Energy Efficient Housing Stock: a review of some theoretical issues. In The Challenge of Change: Construction and Building for the new Millennium. Edited by D Baldry and L Ruddock. Proceedings of the Construction and Building Research Conference. University of Salford Sept 1999. London, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Lowe R & Bell M (1998) http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/as/cebe/projects.htm
Towards Sustainable Housing: building regulation for the 21st century. A report prepared for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Leeds Metropolitan University. This report identified a range of technical, regulatory and policy developments to be pursued to secure a significant reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from dwellings as part of the 2000 & 2005 Building Regulations reviews. Many of the issues raised are just as relevant now as they were when this was published.

 CIOB launches online research and funding database
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) estimates that UK construction can access over £500 million worth of funding across Europe on an annual basis.
Recent statistics from the Government backed Technology Strategy Board (TSB) have found that a recent funding call attracted more than 200 individuals to register and download information but only 20 percent submitted an application. The data also shows that very few industry organisations are aware of the funding opportunities available, and ways to finance Innovation, Research and Development (R&D). To create greater awareness and access to these funds the CIOB has developed an online database for its members to search and interrogate a wide range of local, national and pan-European research and funding opportunities. This aim is to engage and assist the UK construction industry in the R&D agenda and apply for funding at the same time.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Publications & Data

Passivhaus Trust Events 2011 http://www.passivhaustrust.org.uk/events.php
The Passivhaus Trust runs an active programme of education and networking events throughout the year, culminating in our Annual Conference. Events range from introductory visits to Passivhaus buildings for those new to Passivhaus, through to advanced technical and masterclass sessions for expert practitioners.

Living in the Denby Dale Passivhaus http://www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/page–living-in-the-denby-dale-passivhaus-blog.htm
Green Building Store In-use monitoring in progress by Ruth Sutton

Denby Dale Passivhaus Diaries http://www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/page–living-in-the-denby-dale-passivhaus-blog.htm
Green Building Store Airtightness testing by CeBE researchers

Mark Brinkley’s Passivhaus Blogs

Impacts of Revisions to Parts F and L 2010 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/1531558.pdf
CLG Links to Stamford Brook

HBF Technical Conference 2007 http://www.house-builder.co.uk/conferences_and_events/show_event/?event_id=50
HBF Presentations by Malcolm Bell, Jez Wingfield, Dominic Miles-Shenton

Review of the implementation of Part L 2006 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/1526875.pdf
CLG Report by Malcolm Bell & Melanie Smith

Examples of low energy building and sustainable building across the globe

Sustainable Technology Showcased in Senegal: Some practical examples of harnessing energy and  growing food.

 Ground source heating

Environment Agency backs ground source heating (2011)

Building performance evaluation


Reports on Energy use and Building Performance: By Canolfan Rheidol (2011)


West Suffolk House: By Roderic Bunn (2011)


ZCH report on allowable solutions now on the ZCH (2011)



Zero  Carbon Hub : Zero Carbon emissions

Target for 2016

  • 14Kg CO2/m2/yr for flats,
  • 11 CO2/m2/yr for attached houses  and 
  • 10 CO2/m2/yr for  detached dwellings.


Thermal conductivity k  or  the lambda value (λ value)


The thermal resistance (R value) of a specific product or materail can be found by dividing its thickness in metres by the λ value, expressed in W/m.K.



Instantaneous electrical power P(t) – I(t)*V(t)

P (watts  or Joules per second) = V (potential difference or voltage drop measured in volts) * I (current measured in amperes)

Government Publications

Energy Efficiency Strategy


  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: