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What is SBEM and Why is it Important?

30 Oct 2017 at 11:45 AM

SBEM calculations, much like SAP for residential developments, are used to demonstrate the energy performance of new non-dwellings (or extending existing ones).

As an industry the construction business is under mounting pressure to make buildings more sustainable both from regulators and from clients.

The challenge for the developers is that traditional – and therefore lower cost – methods aren’t meeting expectations.

Non-dwelling buildings cover offices, warehouses, retail units, restaurants, leisure centres and retirement homes.

Introduction of these regulations has changed where businesses can operate and increasingly the design of commercial units is changing to reflect this.

As such non-dwelling (commercial) buildings are going through something of a design renaissance. The days of a tin box with a mezzanine and dual business occupation are coming to an end.

Even office buildings are changing to reflect the changing expectations of its client base.

Soulless office blocks are similarly disappearing from skylines and being replaced with developments like Southwark’s Bluefin Building, the world famous Gherkin and the cloud piercing Shard.

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Beyond the city defining designs these buildings are conceived to be as energy efficient as possible in order to meet both the ever tightening demands of compliance and the London Plan.

SBEM – or the Simplified Building Energy Model – is essentially a government approved methodology that calculates the energy required to heat, cool, ventilate and light a non-residential/dwelling.

Assessed based on a 12 month period of ‘normal’ use it gives an accurate read on the amount of carbon dioxide the building emits and therefore how energy efficient (or not) the building is.

This may seem trivial but this is an increasingly important part of the design process and required to demonstrate the building’s compliance with Part L (England & Wales), Document F (Northern Ireland) and Section 6 (Scotland) of the Building Regulations.

Factors such as construction type – including specific U-values for walls, roofs, floors and windows are all taken into account.

Much like SAP the efficiency of heating systems, hot water and ventilation systems and other factors affecting energy consumption are all measured.

Significantly, there are two stages to the assessment – design (required for permission to build) and ‘as-built’ which is required for a completion certificate and EPC to be issued.

The first stage is required to ensure your design meets Part L compliance before you start building. This is key in London especially, due to the London Plan’s carbon targets where the GLA will typically require a 35% improvement over Part L for major developments.


An energy efficient building tends to hold its value – or increase its value – because they are a sound investment simply because they have a longer life expectancy than those that aren’t.

So from a long term investment standpoint, owning a sustainable building is good.

Increasingly sustainable and ethical premises are appealing to businesses who want their office to reflect both their ethos and corporate responsibility policy.

Businesses – especially businesses founded by xennials and millennials – are willing to pay a premium for office space that is sustainable because it’s something they highly value.

Moreover employees consider sustainability and energy efficiency important criteria for a positive work environment in addition to the more tangible aspects such as natural light, adequate heating and ventilation.

SBEM – although an increasingly important requirement – represents an opportunity for developers to create buildings that not only look great but represent a positive step change in a world where the environment and our natural resources have had just about all they can take.

It just so happens to be great business too.

Build Energy is a leading provider of SBEM Calculations, working across the UK. Contact us today to speak to one of our qualified assessors who will be able to advise you further on your project.

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