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Why Use a Fabric First Approach?



The importance of sustainable construction

It’s 2024 and the pursuit of sustainability has never been more crucial, especially in the construction and property industry. With the government’s ambitious Net Zero targets of 2050, we have already begun to see the introduction of new regulatory compliance.

For example, existing legislations such as Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) have been updated to help drive the commercial real estate industry towards a Net Zero future. Since April 2020, landlords can no longer let buildings with an EPC rating lower than E. Those planning on, or currently, letting a property must improve their ratings to E immediately and we expect to see further changes announced in the coming months.

What is fabric?

A building’s ‘fabric’ refers to the physical components that define its structure and envelope (the physical barrier that separates the interior and exterior environments). It comprises all materials and elements that form the interior and exterior surfaces of a building, as well as its supporting structural framework.

Key elements in building fabric include exterior walls, roofing systems, windows and doors to name but a few. These components all have a critical impact on a structure’s energy efficiency, comfort and overall functionality.

‘Fabric first’ approach

A ‘fabric first’ approach is a methodology in building design that takes a holistic and proactive view on sustainability.

Typically, when it comes to finding sustainable solutions to buildings there is a heavy reliance on mechanical systems. These systems regulate the environmental conditions of a structure by providing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) through equipment such as boilers, heat pumps and fans. These solutions are an afterthought to buildings, meeting energy efficiency requirements in an ad-hoc manner.

Instead, a ‘fabric first’ approach relies less on these mechanical systems by considering and integrating sustainability during the conception stage of the construction process. The materials and components that make up the fabric of the building are carefully considered to maximise the structure’s performance and efficiency.

Benefits to a fabric first approach

Focusing on a building’s fabric first is typically considered the most effective method when it comes to producing sustainable buildings with a long-term future. There are a number of benefits associated with adopting this approach.

  • Energy efficiency

As a fabric first approach prioritises the building’s envelope rather than additional low-carbon energy sources post-build, energy efficiency is imbedded within the structure from the offset. With increased airtightness, high insulation, and maximum solar gain, there is a decreased reliance on mechanical heating and cooling systems as heat loss has been minimised.

  • Lower running costs

With the need for mechanical systems being mitigated, so are the long-term maintenance costs surrounding them. As the building is inherently sustainable and consumes less energy, inhabitants can also expect to spend less on energy bills.

  • Enhanced Comfort

Buildings constructed using the fabric first approach are constructed to optimise the comfort of occupants. With reduced drafts, consistent indoor temperatures and greater humidity control, a more comfortable living environment is created for individuals, boosting their satisfaction.

  • Regulatory Compliance

Buildings constructed with this approach typically exceed regulatory requirements and boast extremely high EPCs, increasing their marketability. Fabric first constructions will likely be compliant with future legislations for many years to come due to their long-term sustainability.

How Eddisons can help

At Eddisons, we specialise in providing sustainable solutions, helping clients develop their decarbonisation plans such as fabric first approaches and Passivhaus designs.

Regardless of your objectives, our dedicated decarbonisation team is on hand to advise you on how to meet Net Zero targets. From the initial decarbonisation planning process, assistance with funding applications and guidance on financing options, through to the actual implementation of energy and cost saving initiatives.

Get in touch with the Eddisons team

Please contact us for more details and information

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