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The 'Fabric First Approach'

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

In this carbon conscious climate, it can become difficult for new-build developments to balance carbon compliance, profitability and buildability.

Especially with many local authorities imposing energy measures beyond the Part L 2013 Building Regulations. These energy measures usually manifest as a CO2-Reduction percentage, with the additional complication of an energy demand percentage to be met through the use of renewable sources.

This can, in many areas, become quite an onerous task to achieve – particularly in areas of London that must adhere to the London Plan (an integrated economic, environmental, transport and social framework for the development of London over the next 20–25 years).

Ultimately, the most effective way to strike this aforementioned balance is to use the ‘Fabric First Approach‘.

The key to any new build development is to focus on the fabric of the building prior to any heating or ventilation systems within.

Focussing on the fabric of the building first ensures that the construction is as thermally efficient as it can be, lowering the amount of heat loss throughout the building, therefore reducing the amount of energy required to heat the building. This, in turn, offers a lower CO2 footprint to the building.

As the industry has become more conscious of this approach, many insulation and prefabricated panel manufactures have been forced to make improvements on their products. The Fabric First Approach has created healthy competition between those manufactures, driving the thermal quality of construction materials up whilst reducing costs and maintaining buildability.

Once the fabric of a building is specified to the most efficient it can be, this can in many cases reduce the size of plant required as heating and cooling demands are lowered. This is another financial benefit to the approach.

Utilising this approach also has an enormous impact on the ability to meet energy demand via renewable technology. In addition, by lowering the energy demand using passive fabric measures, the amount of renewable technology (such as photovoltaic panels) required will be reduced significantly, thus further lowering the overall building costs.

Article by: Paul Arnold, Sustainability Engineer

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