CHP FAQ: 21st Century Design

Posted by Clare Burns on 06-Sep-2016 11:00:00

Low carbon energy, such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP), is an attractive option for 21st century design given that heat is captured during the generation of electricity. Here are some of the common questions about CHP in the sector answered by the experts.


Green buildings have a design that should be environmentally responsible and resource efficient.

However, to be sustainable throughout their lifetime, green buildings also need to be smart / intelligent by integrating high technology and processes that, while creating a comfortable environment for their occupants, are operationally energy efficient and adaptable to future environmental changes.

What is the CHPQA?

CHPQA is an initiative to encourage the wider practical application of Good Quality Combined Heat and Power, Community Heating and Alternative Fuel technologies. CHPQA aims to monitor, assess and improve the quality of UK Combined Heat and Power.”

Successful CHPQA certification grants eligibility to benefits like the Renewables Obligation Certificates, Renewable Heat Incentive, Carbon Price Floor (heat) relief, Climate Change Levy exemption (in respect of electricity directly supplied), Enhanced Capital Allowances and preferential Business Rates.

Take ECA… The first year allowances let businesses set 100% of the cost of the assets against taxable profits in a single tax year. This means the company can write off the cost of the new plant or machinery against the business’s taxable profits in the financial year the purchase was made.

CHPQA will also unlock savings through exemption from CCL. The savings listed above are from a medium-sized leisure centre in the south of England. With a 110kW CHP unit, the business is saving £31,756 in energy costs alone. But having been certified CHPQA, it will save a further £5,893 from the CCL break.

What is construction 2025?

The policy is a joint strategy between government and the construction industry, the overall aim of which is to improve the close working relationship between public authorities and suppliers and contractors through the adoption of best working practices. This is intended to bring greater transparency of information, and to deliver the significant growth required.

The hope is that this approach will make the construction industry processes less fragmented and more in tune with the end user’s actual requirements, thus helping to reduce waste and environmental impact.

The strategy sets out four ambitious targets:

  • Lower costs: 33% reduction in the initial construction of new build and the whole-life costs of built assets.

  • Faster delivery: 50% reduction in overall completion times.

  • Lower emissions: 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment.

  • Improvements in export: 50% reduction in the trade gap between total exports and total imports for construction products and materials.

Construction 2025 should help to reduce the investment risks by openly encouraging the introduction of the following best practices:

  • Feasibility and planning designs that are reliable and de-risked.

  • Benchmarking to ensure a level cost market and comprehensible procurement activities across projects.

  • Use of common standards for specifications and contracts.

  • Encourage the standardisation of sustainable building components: e.g. using innovative and energy saving fabrication methods, systems, materials, technology, etc.

What is ‘Soft Landings’?

Soft landings – the requirement for collaboration, the adoption of best practices and digital working, such as Building Information Modelling – is a methodology used to help improve the ‘actual, final, operational performance’ of buildings.

The ongoing maintenance and operational cost of a building during its lifecycle far outweighs the original capital cost of construction, and Government Soft Landings identifies the need for this to be recognised through early engagement in the design process.

Where does CHP fit in?

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is an on-site source of both electrical and heat energy. This is around 25–30% more efficient than using traditional supplies, and reduces CO2 emissions by 30%.

Its flexibility to be installed locally at the point of network connection makes it well suited for the efficient supply of heat energy to buildings via decentralised energy networks favoured by many UK city authorities.

How can BREEAM help engineers in the construction industry?

BREEAM: Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology.

BREEAM assesses the environmental performance and the sustainability of industrial and commercial buildings. An accredited assessor scores the building’s environmental performance by awarding credits for the following environmental sections.

Within its energy performance assessment, BREEAM calculates CO2 emissions and compares with Part L TER using its Ene01 calculator.

Between 1990 and 2012, there were 6,739 certified BREEAM assessments for new construction non-domestic buildings.

By reaching over 9,000 BREEAM rated buildings, BRE predict emissions savings will be in excess of 900,000 tonnes of CO2, compared to regulatory minimum performance requirements, by 2020.

What buildings have an ‘outstanding’ BREEAM score?

The Central Bank of Ireland’s headquarters is one example of a new design building that achieved a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating at design stage.

The scheme received scores of 91.3% for energy and 88.89% for pollution by specifying a high-efficiency Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system and an advanced ventilation system for the building. In addition, the building achieved an 88.89% rating for its transport design.

What is BIM and why is it important?

BIM (Building Information Modelling) is not just about 3D designs; it is about fully understanding a building model. This includes all information associated with building ‘objects’ (building components), how buildings are constructed, and how they will be maintained during their lifetime – by aiding existing manual processes with digital technology.

The aim of BIM is to encourage greater collaboration with project information, update practices and develop more realistic building models by consistently bringing component information together (‘intelligent object’ data) at an earlier stage in a defined and controlled way. This will provide:


  • Performance properties.

  • Physical characteristics.

  • Appearance.

  • Functionality.

  • Operation & maintenance information.

  • Costing information.


The common vision of BIM is that it will add extra dimensions to a building model by gathering ‘intelligence’ as information is created, captured, analysed, and shared. The use of BIM data to analyse time has been referred to as 4D, with cost management termed 5D, and even a 6D for facilities management.

Why exactly is BIM important?

The main benefits of BIM include:

  • Reduction of design errors, by making it easier to identify errors before a site commences; this may save on cost and time by eliminating rework.

  • Reducing conflicts and design clashes, which would otherwise result in construction changes; saves on construction costs and time.

  • Construction of sustainable buildings, using materials that could decrease environmental impacts; this reduces energy use.

  • Efficiency improvements for maintenance and operation companies. By having historical design data instantly available upto 15% can be saved on maintenance time and sometimes may remove the need for costly site visits.


The essence of BIM is collaboration, where everyone is working to the same processes, standards, and using the same information before, during and after the project.

It is believed that this will not only provide an opportunity to improve the quality and efficiency of building designs, but it also may improve working relationships between the parties involved.

A zero-carbon future?

When will all buildings be energy efficient, low-carbon? Perhaps 2019 is too close for zero-carbon buildings? Could we achieve it by 2025 or 2030?

By eliminating energy waste and reducing energy consumption in your building, you will reduce your energy costs. And you will move towards your carbon reduction targets, helping address the challenges of global warming and climate change and contribute to national targets.

Best practices for controlling the energy efficiency of buildings by using low-carbon energy will continue to evolve and improve; assisted by methodologies, such as ‘soft landings’ and BIM.

In the future, there is a need for the voluntary codes of practice of today to be incorporated into new regulations and standards that will underpin legislation that ensures  we continue to meet the targets of zero-carbon and zero-energy buildings.

Essential guide to small scale chp

Clare Burns

Clare Burns is a technical marketer with many years’ experience in the energy arena, as well as in fashion, telecoms and education. Fluent in 3 languages, Clare has worked across Europe. She currently works for ENER-G, a UK manufacturer of carbon reducing, energy efficient products exporting its cogeneration technology across the globe.