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Inefficient buildings perform badly in UK cold snap

The UK’s offices and homes leaked an extra £1.2bn worth of heat over the cold snap of the past two weeks compared with a normal winter, cost and project management consultancy Faithful+Gould has estimated.

The consultancy found that homes accounted for £962M of the additional spend, while offices accounted for £284M.

Faithful+Gould energy management expert Ellie Horwitch-Smith said the total £1.2bn estimate is a conservative one.

“As outside temperatures fall, the cold truth is that already inefficient buildings perform increasingly badly as heating systems struggle to maintain the indoor temperatures demanded of them,” she said.

The Faithful+Gould team was made up of experts in carbon management and energy engineering. They looked at the amount of extra energy required to maintain a typical home at 20°C as the outside temperature dropped over the worst two weeks of the winter so far. The team assumed an average outside temperature of -2°C for this period. 

Poorly insulated

It was found that the residents of an average poorly-insulated three bed semi-detached house would have spent an extra £37 keeping their house warm over the fortnight.

If all UK homes used the same amount of additional energy as the average, this would mean a total additional spend of £962M.

A heat efficient house would also have seen higher bills but that extra cost would have been reduced to around £23. Therefore, the UK as a nation of home-owners could have saved around £364M by bringing dwellings up to better performance standards.

The calculation for the UK’s two million offices assumed a higher outside temperature of 5°C as most offices are in built up areas and benefit from a ‘heat island’ effect.

A 2°C exceptional drop in temperature would have used an extra £284M of energy to keep inside temperatures at 20°C over the same two weeks, based on an average 1500m² office building.

However the team also estimated that a particularly poorly insulated office could have cost an extra £149 to heat over that same period.

Careful thinking

“The answer may be to retrofit insulation, or even think more carefully about the characteristics of a building at the design stage, but  whatever home-owners or businesses do investing in heat-proofing can rapidly cut their energy costs,” said Horwitch-Smith .

“There is a particular opportunity in the commercial sector this year with the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme in April. This will force owners or occupiers of large buildings or portfolios to improve energy performance or incur greater compliance costs.“

Faithful+Gould is part of the Atkins engineering design group.

Readers' comments (2)

  • While fully supporting the need improve the energy efficiency of our existing stock I wondered how these figures might compare with gas consumption, assuming most additional heat is catered for by gas {burnt in homes, offices and power plant}.
    National grid operational data shows extra consumption, against 'normal' forecast for the first fortnight of the year, of 1196 mcm (this is roughly 25% up, but still a bit below their 'cold' forecast). At marginal cost of 3.462p /kWh this equates to an extra cost of £448.8 m.
    Thus not quite £1.2bn - but at least in the same ball park.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • While fully supporting the need improve the energy efficiency of our existing stock I wondered how these figures might compare with gas consumption, assuming most additional heat is catered for by gas {burnt in homes, offices and power plant}.
    National grid operational data shows extra consumption, against 'normal' forecast for the first fortnight of the year, of 1196 mcm (this is roughly 25% up, but still a bit below their 'cold' forecast). At marginal cost of 3.462p /kWh this equates to an extra cost of £448.8 m.
    Thus not quite £1.2bn - but at least in the same ball park.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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