Energy performance at Knowle - an analysis

SIR - A substantial part of the East Devon District Council (EDDC) case for moving from Knowle is based on the high energy costs of its buildings. This argument seems flawed.

Since October 1, 2008, public authorities have needed a Display Energy Certificate (DEC) and a valid Advisory Report with recommendations for improving the energy performance of their buildings.

DECs are based on the amount of metered energy used over a year. They provide an energy rating – like those for domestic appliances – from A to G, where A is very efficient and G is the least efficient.

A DEC of 1 October 2008 gave Knowle a ‘C’ rating, with a relative energy score which is better than the typical value for a building of this kind.

At EDDC’s public display on Knowle redevelopment, in Market Square on 14 July, a senior representative of the EDDC argued that the very good score relates only to the new buildings at Knowle.


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But the Advisory Report clearly states that ‘... the figures have been calculated across a range of buildings’; and the Report refers specifically to older parts of Knowle. It seems that the case for moving is based on a misunderstanding and/or a misrepresentation of the facts.

The Advisory Report on Knowle recommended actions for energy conservation. Some, like improving staff energy awareness, are free to apply; and others would have paid for themselves during the four years since the report.

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Recommendations like improving roof insulation and glazing are the sorts of things that any sensible person might do at home.

EDDC also claim that Knowle is too large for their needs. If the newer parts of Knowle are more energy-efficient and easier to maintain, why doesn’t EDDC move their core activities into the newer offices, and make part-time staff ‘hot desk’ rather than having their own allotted office space?

Then EDDC could find another user for the vacated parts of Knowle and the income from rent would pay for the energy actions. A DEC is valid for a year and must be updated annually. The Department for Communities and Local Government says it is important that the public sector complies and is seen to be setting an example.

It seems that the Knowle DEC expired on the 30/09/2009. So it is unclear whether EDDC have followed advice and improved the buildings.

Now, instead of sensible conservation measures, they promote demolition and new building. Does that make sense?

It is said to take 50 years before the carbon used in constructing a new building is repaid by subsequent carbon saving in its use (http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1329139/).

In 2008, Professor Anne Power (London School of Economics and for nine years a member of the Government’s Sustainable Development Commission) wrote a review for the Government: Does demolition or refurbishment of old and inefficient homes help to increase our environmental, social and economic viability? (Energy 36, 4487-4501).

She states explicitly that ‘... the arguments that apply to housing apply .... to the overall built environment ...’

She later says ‘Since the case for demolition on energy grounds is not clear cut, higher refurbishment standards for existing homes, including under-floor and solid wall insulation, using known methods, offer better value and potentially greater gains.’

She concludes that ‘... an approach grounded in the realities of our complex built environment seems more hopeful than a theoretical, long-term and largely uncosted plan to build and demolish on unprecedented scales within our seriously constrained environment.’

Most people in Sidmouth would agree wholeheartedly.

Robin Fuller, Sidmouth

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