By Jonathan Dore, Kingspan Ltd. You only have to look at the uptake of the Government’s Green Deal Home Improvement Fund to see the effect cold hard cash can have on energy efficiency initiatives. We’d all like to live and work in greener buildings, but the desire for energy efficiency is still outweighed by a relentless need to keep costs as low as possible.
Nowhere does this apply more than in the commercial property sector, where years of cautious building have left a shortfall of premises in desirable areas, leaving energy efficiency far down the list of deciding factors for potential tenants, and therefore a low priority for owners.
But that is all about to change with the upcoming implementation of 2018’s ban on the letting of properties with EPC grades lower than E. Ensuring compliance in plenty of time to avoid the expensive last-minute rush is likely to drive a raft of long-overdue refurbishments to UK commercial stock over the next couple of years.
The ban, part of 2011’s Energy Act, will no doubt cause void periods for any properties that don’t meet the standard in time, but it also has the potential to hit property owners now. Marketability of properties currently rated either F or G will become increasingly difficult which, in turn, will have a direct impact on both current and future valuations of these assets.
All of this makes a compelling “stick” case for the refurbishment of inefficient commercial properties. But there is an even more compelling “carrot” case here too; some energy efficiency measures can lower operating costs, with rapid ROI, and even improve productivity. I’m referring specifically to rooflights.
Installing rooflights is one of the most simple and cost-effective ways to improve the performance of a warehouse-type building, either when the roof is constructed or when refurbished using specific insulated panel systems. Efficient daylighting systems help reduce artificial lighting demand without compromising the strong thermal performance of a building, reducing energy costs all round. This leads to more energy- and cost-efficient warehouses.
There are also numerous occupational benefits associated with improved rooflights. Better quality light leads to a happier, healthier workforce, while many studies have shown the link between the ‘right’ types of light and increased productivity. When paired with the right interior fitting (such as the white internal faces we fit to our Kingspan insulated panels), the maximum effect of the natural light is achieved in the building.
But not all rooflights are made equal. While all have their benefits, some older products are subject to yellowing and a loss of translucence over time, causing deterioration in the quality of light they transmit. Where this occurs, lighting costs creep up as more artificial light is required to make up for the shortfall, or more frequent internal refurbishments are demanded to lighten up the gloom. This begins to eat into the energy and cost efficiency benefits gained when the system was originally installed.
Any refurbishment that includes rooflights needs to consider the best product for the here-and-now, and also the best product in terms of the lifetime of the building; avoiding the need for additional external works later down the line.
Polycarbonate rooflight systems are one of the products suitable for such long-term thinking. For example, the Kingspan Day-Lite range of polycarbonate rooflights will lose only 2-3% of light transmission over 25 years, no matter the temperature and UV conditions. Kingspan’s rooflights minimise the effects of discolouration, a major factor in the reduction of natural light, and are also highly thermally-efficient, achieving a U-value of 1.6 W/m²K as standard with options down to 0.8 W/m2K.
In fact, it may even pay for building owners to think further ahead still. The trend for evermore stringent energy efficiency regulations is well-set, and it would be a logical conclusion for this to impact owner’s responsibilities, and therefore costs, for dealing with demolition waste in the future. As such, 100% recyclability should be another consideration when choosing rooflight products.
Of course, rooflights are not the only way businesses can comply with the 2018 changes and benefit from natural energy sources and better quality lighting. Any specification that considers whole-of-life operational costs will invariably turn to other technologies that can be paired with a rooflight solution. For Kingspan, this means offering a complete package that combines the excellent performance of superior roof and rooflight products with rooftop solar PV which, when coupled with energy-efficient lighting with automatic controls, will maximise efficiency and minimise energy costs.
We’re not in ticking timebomb territory yet, but it’s clear that owners need to act now to maintain the value of their properties. Indeed, getting the refurbishments right, even with relatively low upfront capital investment, could transform old, dingy warehouses into gleaming assets that increase productivity and reduce operational costs for their tenants; a rare win-win. Cutting-edge manufacturers, like Kingspan, are on hand with the products and expertise to help owners make the best of the opportunity offered by the upcoming changes.