Kate Rotheram, intelligent buildings solution consultant at Trend says that contractors need to be working from the same specification sheet.

Adhering to project specifications is of the utmost importance for contractors tasked with installing systems in buildings. Deviations from the specified requirements can lead to a range of challenges and hinder the overall performance of a building, particularly in terms of energy efficiency. Despite this, the changing of product or operational specifications has long been a challenge, whether it’s driven by cost-cutting or a lack of awareness from customers on the impact a change can make. Fortunately, a positive change in outlook is taking place in the industry.

There are many reasons why a project specification might change. If a manufacturer has specified the product requirements for a customer project, there may be times when a contractor feels it necessary to adjust the specification for budgetary reasons. And because there is often a disconnect between that manufacturer and contractor, the reasons why the proposed products were suggested in the first place is left unstated.

Similarly, contractors can face resistance from customers that would like to economise or re-specify projects to better suit their budgets. However, these specification changes often lead to problems further down the line or a lack of project benefits, neither of which the customer is initially aware of. For example, stripping back on the control and monitoring equipment in a site impedes the ability to manage building energy performance long-term — something that does not become apparent until several months or even years in the future.

This should come as no surprise to anyone: project specifications are important. What may come as a surprise is that, in recent years, we’re beginning to see a newfound appreciation for these specifications. Customers — and, as a result, contractors — are considering the longer-term impact of projects rather than the short-term costs or durations. Driving this shift in mindset are a series of standards and guidelines, particularly for new builds and commercial spaces.

The new standards

One of the most prominent standards that continues to drive consideration of long-term building project impacts is Part L of the Building Regulations.[i] The regulation has evolved since its initial introduction in 2010, with the documentation being updated and streamlined in 2022 following a government consultation.

Among several changes in the latest iteration of the Part L regs is that non-domestic new builds must produce at least 27 percent less carbon emissions than those built to current standards. This has spurred many customers to reconsider the long-term impact of all their new build specifications, from heating and insulation to building control systems. With the UK Government also poised to introduce the Future Buildings Standard in 2025,[ii] this demand for ways to monitor and reduce carbon emissions will only continue to increase.

Alongside this, we’ve recently seen the introduction of the NABERS UK programme.[iii] Stemming from the Australian programme established in 1999, NABERS is, in effect, a natural continuation of the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification scheme that many contractors are used to. Whereas BREEAM offers a holistic perspective on sustainability and accounts for everything from energy use to materials, NABERS focuses exclusively on energy performance.

NABERS effectively offers a star rating for a building’s energy efficiency, marking a building’s performance from poor (one star) to market leading (six stars). Contractors will mainly come into contact with this certification through its NABERS UK Energy for Offices rating,[iv] which compares the energy consumption of a building or building tenant against a set of benchmarks.

With these standards guiding customers, it’s no surprise that the long-term impact of projects is becoming a growing consideration. Customers need peace of mind that projects will continue to provide lasting benefits, from reliable control of equipment and systems in a building to accurate data collection and reporting on energy performance.

Similar requirements are even beginning to show themselves in many tendering processes, which are factoring in social value as a criterion for a winning bid. This proposed social value can be anything such as redevelopment of a building into a local care home to support the community or deep consideration of the environmental impact of a building.

Future-proofing projects

This all brings us back to the humble project specification. Now more than ever, with customers looking for demonstrable value from an environmental and social perspective, it’s important that the right equipment for the job is specified and fitted. Many veteran contractors will have an idea of what the best choice for building controls are for a specific project, but there is still a great benefit in working closer with system manufacturers.

Overall, we’re moving into a time when there needs to be greater collaboration and partnership between manufacturers and contractors, enabling the latter to specify the most suitable products for their projects and to also ensure the rationale for existing specifications is fully understood. At Trend, we’re working more collaboratively with contractors than ever before, and the customers and their projects are benefitting as a result.

Long-term thinking doesn't only benefit the customers that are looking for how their project will perform over the next decade and beyond. It's also beneficial for contractors who increasingly need to deliver projects that meet a growing number of strict legislative guidelines. Collaboration is crucial to that — and it all begins with the project specification.

[i] UK Government, Conservation of fuel and power: Approved document L, Published: March 1, 2014 [Accessed: August 3, 2023]

[ii] RIBA Architecture, The Future Buildings Standard – how does it perform?, Published: January 13, 2022 [Accessed: August 3, 2023]

[iii] BRE Group, NABERS UK, Published: April 8, 2021 [Accessed: August 3, 2023]

[iv] BRE Group, NABERS UK: Energy For Offices, Published: April 21, 2021 [Accessed: August 3, 2023]