Building Passports as a means of certifying key information about a property are an extension of recommendations made in Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety. In the report, which was published in following the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy, Dame Judith spoke of the need to create a ‘golden thread’ of data about a building for a supply chain of stakeholders from architects to engineers, through to building safety managers and end users. And whilst this ‘thread’ applied specifically to high-rise buildings, it has given credence to the idea that the same informative package could be produced for regular housing. So, how would a building passport work, and how useful might it be in addressing issues relating to the UK’s energy deficient housing stock?
In essence, a building passport would be a constructional blueprint of a property. This would include information such as the thermal standards a property was built to – and that it achieved those standards – and the type of materials that were used to build it inside and out. Accessible to housing and building authorities, such data would be crucial to ensuring all homes within a new development, for example, were built to the same standard. It would also provide householders with a clearly-defined, certified baseline upon which to improve on their home’s energy performance, should they so wish.
Call to action
For easy accessibility, building passport data would be held digitally. This would lead in all probability to terabytes of information needing to be stored securely but accessibly. This information would need to be kept up to date when changes to the building are made, such as changing the boiler or building an extension, so it remains accurate and relevant to the building.
The Insulation Manufacturer’s Association estimates more than 3,400 homes would need to be upgraded per day from now until 2035 in order to meet the government’s target for EPC band C for homes . Unfortunately, the necessary renovation work is nowhere near starting; a fact which is made all the more lamentable by the persisting instance of houses being built to outdated regulations. In my opinion, the government should be tackling the issue of Britain’s poorly-insulated homes with the same vigour it applies to other public endeavours and displays of national infrastructure investment.
Having outlined the likely logistical issues involved with processing and storing a huge amount of building passport data, it is worth pointing out that the information is already available – it’s just a case of collating it. BIM, EPC certificates, U-value calculations and supporting data sheets are a basis for modern housing developments. If accessible in one easily downloadable digital space, this information would make retrofitting or altering a property to an acceptable standard a far more straightforward prospect.
In her review of building regulations and fire safety, Dame Judith makes it clear that the UK construction industry requires a sea change in culture and practice to improve its all-round standards. Initiatives such as the building passport would certainly represent a positive break from tradition, as it would remove the element of guesswork involved in increasing a property’s energy efficiency. In knowing what a home’s performance is to begin with, small changes could be made to further improve it. And small changes on a mass scale could make a huge difference to the country’s emissions count.
The government has shown favour to Dame Judith’s golden thread in relation to high-rise buildings, so it’s hoped the same accord will be bestowed upon a similar scheme for standard properties. As stated, upgrading nearly 30 million poorly-insulated UK homes represents an almighty challenge. Therefore, the imminent issue of building passports for new properties offers an easier option. It would mean we wouldn’t be adding to an already serious problem.