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‘Over-engineered’ UK buildings are damaging planet, report finds

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Thousands of tonnes of greenhouses gases are being emitted into the atmosphere every year from over-designed buildings in the UK, a study has concluded. 

The research by Danish engineering consultancy Ramboll has found that buildings are being constructed in the UK with building systems that have 50% more electrical capacity and 30% more heating and cooling capacity than is ever needed. 

Applying those percentages to the 1.1M.m2 of new office projects under construction in London, over-engineering is costing clients an eye-watering £70M and belching an extra 23,000t of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.   

The over-engineering comes as a result of efforts to achieve technical compliance and adhere to current building codes and guidance, inadvertanty resulting in excessive building system capacity due to a significant gap between predicted performance and reality. 

Ramboll also blames high-pressure on consultants to deliver leading “safe designs” that stifle further innovation by forcing an “overwhelming focus on price”.  

Ramboll UK managing director Mathew Riley said everyone lost out when projects were over designed. “Over-design is wasting capital investment for building owners and driving higher energy consumption for building occupiers. Nobody wins.

“The key to efficient design is to really understand how a building will perform, by simulating its operation early in the design development, allowing more informed decisions to be made.” 

Ramboll executive director for buildings Andrew Henderson added that engineering knowledge was being wasted. “The full capabilities of talented engineers in our industry are not being harnessed by the market and there is little prospect of improving industry productivity unless something changes. 

“Our analysis shows that in the UK, designing to current codes and guidance and pressurised consultants commoditising and re-using ‘safe’ designs, often with only minor adaptations from previous projects, is resulting in massive inefficiency. The reality is there are smarter ways to achieve, and indeed, exceed compliance standards without increasing capital expenditure.” 

The report follows a shock annoucement from the New York City mayor Bill de Basio, who recently revealed the city was planning to ban new glass and steel skyscrapers that didn’t ahere to strict efficency guidelines. 

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