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Surprise findings in Retrofit Awards survey

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Only a fifth of respondents to AJ/ZBP survey believe occupier behaviour affects environmental performance of retrofit projects, writes Laura Mark

A new survey shows just 20 per cent of architects think occupiers affect the sustainability of retrofit projects.

More than one hundred practices completed the AJ survey, commissioned by ZBP as part of this year’s AJ Retrofit Awards. They answered questions about their role within the retrofitting process, BIM, and the importance of post-occupancy monitoring.

The results showed disparities in the way occupant behaviour is regarded within the profession.

One fifth of those surveyed felt that user behaviour had no impact on the environmental outcome of a retrofit project. Yet this conflicted with the fact that 90 per cent of respondents believed users should be trained in how to use their building.

Knowledge about the Soft Landings process, whereby designers and contractors stay involved with a building and client after completion, is still lacking throughout the profession. Some 65 per cent of those surveyed felt that Soft Landings had little impact on the sustainability of a retrofit project.

One respondent commented: ‘Design and construction teams should be obligated to monitor post-occupancy energy use, fix any non-working eco solutions and hold the occupants’ hands while they are trying to get the building to operate successfully. Tying designers and builders in for the longer term will dramatically improve quality.’

BIM was considered to be highly relevant to retrofit projects, with 65 per cent of those who responded feeling it was beneficial. Unsurprisingly, BIM was recognised as providing integrated working by two thirds of those surveyed.

The use of BIM after practical completion was less valued; 60 per cent were unaware of the value of BIM in providing in-use simulations, and the same number of respondents believed BIM had little benefit for facilities management operations.

Almost 90 per cent of respondents believed developing a good brief had the greatest impact on successful retrofit, with building fabric coming a close second.

The survey identified numerous elements that affected the sustainability of these schemes, including community impact, operating costs, the use of professional, qualified consultants and construction quality.

David Saffin, senior partner, at ZBP, said: ‘[This is] a very interesting result, which suggests there is further work to be done if clients are to receive the full benefit of wider engagement with BIM and greater acknowledgement of user behaviour within the building envelope, through post-occupancy evaluation.’

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