Closing the performance gap in the delivery of zero-carbon homes: A collaborative approach

The UK government has mandated that all new homes achieve ‘zero-carbon’ status by 2016. This policy introduces challenging targets for reducing carbon consumption and emissions. Achieving these standards requires, among other technologies, advanced fabric solutions and high quality workmanship to provide air tightness, high levels of thermal insulation, microgeneration technologies, and feedback of building performance to occupiers. Although such technologies have been proven under controlled conditions and in small commercial developments, consistently delivering zero-carbon housing at scale presents considerable technical and institutional challenges. Evidence from initial, small-scale UK schemes suggests that design intentions are difficult to achieve in practice. Novel approaches must now be developed to close the gap between predicted and as-built performance of eco-homes. This paper reports a novel collaborative research project which is developing process and governance solutions to address this performance gap. An action-learning methodology is presented that uses process mapping to model, evaluate and re-engineer design, construction and commissioning processes around the delivery of c. 400 homes in the UK’s first ‘ecotown’ development. The approach integrates expertise from the entire construction supply chain around the achievement of producing zero-carbon homes at scale that reliably fulfil design intentions.