There is a policy-driven focus, at present, on improving the energy performance of buildings. However, energy-related issues alone do not capture the full impact of buildings on occupants and the wider environment. The performance of a building also includes occupant wellbeing and indoor environmental quality. Specifically, in schools, indoor environmental quality (thermal comfort, indoor air quality, lighting and acoustics) is an important aspect. Additionally, the issue of the ‘performance gap’, generally focused on energy, also affects indoor environmental quality parameters and needs to be addressed holistically. This paper reports on a holistic building performance evaluation covering aspects of energy, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, lighting and acoustics. It assesses the performance issues and inter-relationships between energy and indoor environmental quality in a recently built school campus in London. Based on the evidence collated from this case study and supplementary literature, the endemic issues and constraints within the construction industry are explored, such as inappropriate design calculations and resistance to new low-carbon technologies. Further, lessons for improved performance in the design, operation and maintenance of schools are highlighted such as factoring in the changing building use trends during design and the significance of optimal operations and maintenance of building systems for better energy and indoor environmental quality performance. This study shows that if the building design focus primarily remains on energy, unintended consequence of indoor environmental quality underperformance may occur where there are conflicts between energy and indoor environmental quality objectives. An integrated approach to building performance can help address this issue.
Practical application: There are often conflicts between energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) objectives in building design and operation. Most building performance evaluations are primarily focused on one set of these performance criteria. This building performance evaluation was done with an integrated energy and IEQ perspective. The study identifies the causes of underperformance in energy and IEQ in a recently built school in London. Some of the findings from this study provide lessons that are relevant across the industry for the delivery of low-carbon and healthy buildings. These lessons include methods to further strengthen the policy frameworks and design protocols along with overall improvements in the processes followed during design, construction and operation of schools and other non-domestic buildings. The paper can also inform building designers, contractors and facility managers about the ways to reduce the performance gap and achieve energy targets without unintended consequences for indoor environment.