New Energy Efficient Modular Buildings – But What About The Existing Ones?

As the Government continue their objective to lower the energy consumption of buildings, the building regulations will see further changes over the coming years. New modular building systems are required to meet with the current regulations, in particular part L (conservation of fuel and power). Relocating an existing modular building is a cost effective way of re-cycling the energy that was used during its manufacture. The new EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive may have an impact on modular buildings being relocated and re-used.

EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

The EU Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) came into force in 2003. This directive included the introduction of building energy labelling, the revisions to Part L of the building regulations and the Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) regulations 2007.

The EU directive calls for nearly zero-energy buildings. The government is committed to a zero-carbon, non-domestic building objective by 2019.

The department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has been consulting on various measures for implementation in the 2013 revision to part L. It has recently announced a 9% improvement on 2010 standards for all non-domestic buildings which will come into effect from 6th April 2014.

The new EPBD requires the energy performance of existing buildings of any size (currently 1000m2) undergoing major renovations to be upgraded to meet minimum energy performance standards.

What effect does this have on the modular building industry?

Modular buildings are unique when it comes to carbon emissions. They are manufactured off-site within a controlled factory environment reducing waste and transportation. When the buildings are no longer required they can be relocated and re-used. The energy savings are embodied within the building itself as it already exists. When recycling an existing modular building this can reduce the amount of energy required to build an equally specified new building by up to 90%.

Currently when relocating an existing modular building, it is treated as if it was a new building, however, it is not always appropriate to expect these buildings to meet the new build standards, especially as the embodied energy in the existing module is retained, a benefit that compensates for the small increases in operating energy demand.

An adjustment factor is currently used when calculating the target emissions rate (TER) for modular buildings that were manufactured prior to the current building regulations (amended October 2010). The TER is used to determine compliance with part L.

The potential problem with the new EPDB and continuing changes to Part L of the building regulations is that if any future amendments under the building directive does not include a separate adjustment factor for existing modular buildings, these buildings may become obsolete. Any older modular building being relocated could be upgraded to meet the required regulations but the cost to do this may become prohibitive. As well as rendering these buildings obsolete, how much energy will be used to dispose of them?

The modular building industry in the UK has an annual turnover in excess of £600 million. It has adapted to the continuing changes of Part L to produce buildings with improved energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions. With a large part of the industry’s turnover coming from relocating existing modular buildings, any future changes to the building regulations which do not take into account the unique properties of this type of building system will be damaging not only to the environment but also the economy.

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