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Sofie Pelsmakers

This culture of post-construction disengagement needs to change and the industry needs to recognise under performance, says Sofie Pelsmakers

The Architects’ Journal Bridge the Gap campaign is a timely effort to mobilise architects and the wider industry to address the under performance of so many of our buildings.

Many architects are unaware of large disparities between new buildings’ predicted performance and their actual performance. Most architects probably do not even know what the predicted energy use is of the building they designed because modelling is outsourced to other consultants, let alone what the actual energy use turns out to be. Usually architects do not return to evaluate their buildings once they are commissioned and occupied. The majority of architects are not particularly interested in finding out about their buildings’ performance, nor do they usually get paid to do this. One reason may be that PII providers do not encourage it. Why go back to evaluate your design when you may find problems and get sued? The addition of an ‘In Use’ workstage in the new RIBA Plan of Work is a step in the right direction.  

This culture of post-construction disengagement needs to change. The industry as a whole must recognise this underperformance. The ‘design-modelling- construction- in-use’ feedback loop is invaluable because it allows us to reflect on our mistakes. This learning process – both individually and, if made public, can prevent the repetition of mistakes.

Let’s also be honest. If a building does not perform as predicted, we tend to hide this news in silence. I applaud the Bridge the Gap campaign as a way to encourage transparency and promote awareness and industry-wide learning about the performance gap. We need to get over the constant burying of underperformance in silence. 

  • Sofie Pelsmakers, doctoral researcher at UCL’s Energy Institute

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