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Keep your tech simple if you really want to see results

One of the great challenges of creating low-carbon buildings is the performance gap – that difference between the expected performance at design change and how much energy a building consumes in reality.

Buildings often turn out to use a lot more energy than planned. One of the main reasons for this, and one of the most difficult to control, is the behaviour of the building occupants.

If you install the most advanced, hi-tech HVAC system available, for example, but the occupant doesn’t use it in an efficient way, you won’t get the desired results.

Top-end efforts

Last week I visited 119 Ebury Street, a property in Belgravia that has just been refurbished by landlord Grosvenor. The company has tried to push the envelope in terms of sustainability, making it the first listed residential building to achieve a BREEAM Outstanding rating.

Now of course, a lot of this is down to the materials used and the careful construction techniques deployed. But there is also a lot of ‘green’ technology hidden in the walls and behind the scenes, out of sight from the tenants who’ll be living in the space.

As Grosvenor’s project manager Mike Levey told me: “We don’t want people thinking it’s sustainable. We want people to think that it’s a luxury apartment first, which it is – but that it’s also sustainable.”

“Keep the technology simple and intuitive to use, without overdoing it – ie, avoid tacking on extra green bling for the sake of BREEAM credits”

The building consists of three flats, with a two-bedroom apartment set to go on the market for around £995 a week this month.

Clearly then, these are being pitched at the higher end of the rental market, which is important when considering how the technology has been deployed.

Seamless deployment

It’s all very unobtrusive – only one or two panels on the wall with uncomplicated controls, water-saving measures that work automatically, and a HVAC system that monitors the temperature and air quality to ensure tenants are comfortable.

It really is a luxury flat first and foremost, which is how it will be marketed – but once inside, tenants will realise the extra sustainability benefits that have been seamlessly included.

It’s an important lesson for contractors and developers to learn.

Keep the technology simple and intuitive to use, without overdoing it – ie, avoid tacking on extra green bling for the sake of BREEAM credits.

Think about how to use technology sensitively and intelligently, and the solution will often be easier than you think.

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