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New scheme launched to combat unsophisticated SAP

A sustainable building association is looking to train up teams of “super assessors” because of frustration with the Government-backed Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) and nconsistent regulations which potentially undermine energy efficiency.

The Association of Environment Conscious Builders (AECB) officially launched its CarbonLiteProgramme at the Eco Build 08 exhibition.

Programme director Liz Reason said the Carbon Trust-backed project stemmed from the fact SAP “was not sophisticated enough” to assess very low-energy buildings.

The programme will provide “a crash course in low energy and low carbon building” through step-by-step guides alongside effective assessment of buildings during design, building and after construction.

The 30-plus assessors expected to be qualified by the end of the year will be trained in PassivHaus, the voluntary standard for low-energy buildings.

Mrs Reason said: “Super assessors are so named because they will have a real understanding of energy in buildings and because they will be able to use the PassivHaus Planning Package (PHPP) software designed by the PassivHaus Institute in Germany to assist with the design of low-energy buildings.

“We are currently having to run PHPP alongside existing assessment schemes such as SAP, because SAP and other software widely used in the UK does not allow for the modelling of very low-energy buildings.

“We would rather not have to do this, but feel that currently we have no choice. Super assessors will run alongside other schemes until the other schemes have caught up.

“We are also undertaking a piece of work which compares PHPP and SAP to inform the development of SAP so that, when it is revised by 2009, it will better reflect low-energy buildings.”

AECB is also keen to address problems with existing legislation promoting heating solutions which could raise carbon dioxide emissions, such as the use of electric heating in homes instead of gas systems.

Mrs Reason said: “One of the reasons for developing this is that we are concerned about the number of developers who are using electric heating in low-carbon homes.”

She pointed to research by the Good Homes Alliance (GHA) which argued it was easier for builders to achieve Level 3 and 4 for the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) by using electric on-peak heating.

This is because the Government is keen to ease sustainability targets for properties not on the gas grid or where a gas service is not a viable choice.

However, the GHA calculates a property achieving CSH level 3 using electric heating will generate 18 per cent more carbon dioxide than a building with gas heating which only meets Building Regulations standards.

Energy management expert Mike Malina, Energy Solutions Associates director, welcomed AECB’s emphasis on insulation and low-energy solutions, but warned: “There are so many different schemes and different bodies, but they are not working together. We have all kinds of quangos, but no one knows what everyone else is doing.

“The Government needs to set standards and make a bold statement about the best options to reduce carbon emissions.” 

He said assessing the impact of electric heating depended on how the electricity was being supplied and whether microgeneration was used. “At the moment developers are looking for a quick fix and they should not be allowed to do that without looking at the bigger picture and looking at how the energy is generated,” he said

The Carbon Trust is funding the CarbonLite programme under its Networks Programme with additional funding coming from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.