Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Endeavour House rated 'F' for energy efficiency

Earlier this month, the Centre for Sustainable Energy released a swathe of data on the energy efficiency of UK public buildings, obtained from the DCLG via a Freedom of Information request. The Guardian then picked up on the story and mapped the entire dataset using Google Maps, making it easy to click around and compare local buildings — schools, hospitals, local government, etc. It turns out that Endeavour House, Suffolk County Council’s flagship ‘green’ office complex in West Ipswich, is rated a mere ‘F’.

Technically, this information has been available for a while. Since October 2008, in compliance with EU energy performance directives, all large public buildings have been required to undergo yearly assessments and to display the results prominently in the form of ‘Display Energy Certificates’ (these certificates are also available online, via the Non-Domestic Energy Performance Certificate Register, but require knowledge of a building’s 20-digit reference number.) Visitors to Endeavour House are greeted by a glass cabinet full of environmental awards and commendations right by the front door — perhaps not surprisingly, it does not include the certificate itself, which is hidden around a corner by the reception desk.

The building was bought half-finished from the defunct TXU Europe in 2003, for £16.75 million. According to the Council’s website, it ‘boasts a host of … environmental features’, including rainwater collection, ‘mini recycling centres’ and extensive solar panels. The annual power produced by the latter is estimated by the Council to be around 72,000 kWh, ‘about the same as the energy used by 20 houses’; Chelmsford firm Solar Green, responsible for installing the panels, reckon on a higher figure of 84,000 kWh, and note that ‘[a]t the time of construction this solar photovoltaic system was the largest of its kind in Europe and is still the largest building integrated solar pv system in the UK.’

The Display Energy Certificate, however, shows that it is barely producing 2% of the electricity used at Endeavour House, leaving the building with an annual carbon footprint of almost 2,000 tonnes and an Operational Rating of 138, where ‘100 would be typical for this kind of building’. (The rating for 2009 was slightly lower, at 136, but the figure of 147 in 2008 almost tipped the building into the very bottom bracket, ‘G’.) The building’s Advisory Report, issued at the same time as the latest certificate, gives fourteen recommendations for improvement, every one marked as potentially ‘high impact’.

There may well be more to this data than meets the eye — these sorts of centralized assessments are notorious for their heavy-handedness and inattention to detail. Still, the methodology seems solid and well thought-out, making provision for a broad range of buildings and functions. Perhaps the Council just needs to remember to switch the lights off now and then.

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