Our Environmental modelling Software provider Sefaira (a ‘Global Top 200 Private Company’ and ‘Green Building Innovation of the Year Winner – Ecobuild 2011’ ) is featured in this week’s Building magazine (15/02/2013) demonstrating the capabilities of Sefaira Concept in transforming Bluewater shopping centre into “Europe’s most energy efficient retail complex” for owners Lend Lease.


This article demonstrates how you don’t need to create a new building to make it sustainable, after all, what can be more sustainable than taking an existing building and making it environmentally friendly instead of tearing it down and starting from scratch?


This week Sefaira also featured AWW and our refurbishment of an existing college building into a new 420-place primary school, ready to accept admissions in 2014.


As the project does not change the use type of the building, there is no requirement to bring non-compliant building elements up to current new-build standards. The local authority’s Core Strategy, however, targets a further 20% reduction in CO2 emissions through renewable energy strategies. Due to the fact that standards for energy efficiency for the primary school project were not dictated by Building Regulations, AWW had to find a way to establish a range of prescriptive design parameters and communicate these alternatives to the project stakeholders. This could only be achieved by investigating the design options at the earliest stages of conceptual design.


Standard practice is to leave the exploration of energy performance strategies until later phases, when the design is more concrete and the data needed to create complex simulation models of energy performance is available. The downside of this workflow is that at later stages the implementation of sustainability strategies is more expensive and time consuming. Therefore, the strategies have a lower probability of actually finding their way into the final project. This is a challenge that can’t be ignored when a reduction in the Carbon emissions target is so closely linked to Planning policy coupled with the usual project constraints such as limited budget.


AWW was able to explore the opportunities from inception in-house, with the most effective (and cost effective) solution being the combination of various strategies: essential improvements (upgrading the glazing and boiler) with specific envelope improvements (increasing airtightness and upgrading wall and roof insulation to a realistic and affordable specification). This resulted in a 47% reduction in the projected annual energy consumption, 28% reduction in the projected annual CO2 emissions, and approximately 20% reduction in the annual utility costs.


Not only are these strategies robust (they require minimal maintenance) and deliver consistent performance throughout the life of the development, they are also less costly than high-maintenance bolt-on renewables that can often reduce in effectiveness as they age (the warranty conditions for PV panels typically guarantee that panels produce no more than approximately 80% of their initial rated peak output after 20 or 25 years, with even modern PV panels often suffering a performance loss of 5% over the first 12 months *).


“Our sustainability knowledge has now been strengthened by Sefaira Concept with its powerful and innovative capabilities, allowing us to identify cost-effective opportunities early on meaning best-value solutions are developed and tested from the outset. This design approach ensures that the benefits associated with appropriate and affordable low carbon and energy efficient solutions are developed and delivered as an integral part of the project.”

– Till Scherer: Associate, Project Architect & Head of Sustainability at AWW


*Research by Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).