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SBEM Calculations - Building Research Establishment (BRE)

The Importance of SBEM Calculations

What is SBEM?

Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM) calculations are essential for assessing the energy performance of new commercial buildings in the UK. These calculations help ensure that the building designs comply with the UK’s stringent energy efficiency requirements as laid out in the building regulations.

Specifically, SBEM is a crucial tool used by building designers and developers to evaluate and demonstrate the energy use of new non-domestic buildings against the standards prescribed in Part L of the Building Regulations in England and Wales, and their equivalents in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This initial assessment is vital not just for meeting legal standards but also for promoting long-term sustainability in building projects.

Understanding SBEM Calculations

Definition and Purpose

SBEM is a methodology developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to calculate the energy required to heat, cool, ventilate, and light a building. The calculations provide a comparative measure of energy efficiency against which new buildings can be rated and certified. SBEM is primarily used for new commercial buildings but can also apply to existing buildings undergoing alterations.

Comparison with SAP

While SBEM is used for commercial buildings, SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) calculations are used for residential properties. The key difference lies in the type of buildings each assesses, though both aim to evaluate energy efficiency. SAP is generally more detailed about individual dwelling characteristics, whereas SBEM focuses on broader energy use factors in commercial spaces.

Key Components

SBEM calculations take into account several technical components of a building’s design, including:

  • Thermal performance of materials: Insulation and construction materials used in walls, roofs, and floors.
  • Heating and cooling systems: Efficiency of boilers, air conditioners, and other HVAC systems.
  • Lighting efficiency: The type and efficiency of lighting fixtures and natural light usage.
  • Renewable energy technologies: Incorporation of systems like solar panels or wind turbines. These components are critically evaluated to predict the building’s energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The Role of SBEM in Complying with Building Regulations

Compliance with Part L

Part L of the Building Regulations (Conservation of Fuel and Power) mandates that all new buildings in England and Wales meet specific energy and carbon emission standards. SBEM calculations are instrumental in proving that these standards are met. The process involves comparing the calculated Building Emission Rate (BER) with the Target Emission Rate (TER), which is the government’s benchmark for a building’s energy efficiency.

Importance in Scotland and Northern Ireland

In Scotland, similar requirements are outlined under Section 6 of the Building Standards. Northern Ireland uses Part F of its Building Regulations. Although each region has its nuances, the overarching goal is to reduce the operational energy demand and carbon footprint of new buildings. SBEM calculations are adapted accordingly to meet these regional standards, ensuring that all parts of the UK contribute to broader environmental targets.

Meeting TER and BER

The TER is set based on a notional building of the same dimensions and type but constructed using standard building practices. The BER, calculated through SBEM, must not exceed the TER to comply with regulations. This ensures that new commercial buildings incorporate energy-efficient practices right from the design stage, significantly impacting their long-term environmental and operational costs.

SBEM Calculations Process

Initial Design Stage Report

The SBEM calculation process begins with the initial design stage report. This preliminary assessment is conducted once the building designs are drafted but before construction starts. It evaluates the proposed building’s energy performance, comparing it to the Target Emission Rate (TER).

This stage is crucial as it allows designers to ensure that the building plans are aligned with energy efficiency standards right from the start. Any discrepancies between the proposed design and regulatory standards can be identified and addressed early, preventing costly modifications later.

'As Built' Stage Report and Its Significance

After the construction is complete, an ‘As Built’ stage report is prepared. This report assesses the completed building to ensure it has been constructed according to the energy-efficient designs approved in the initial report.

It is critical to obtain the final building regulation compliance certificate. This stage verifies that the practical implementation of construction and energy systems aligns with the theoretical designs, ensuring the building’s operational efficiency matches its intended specifications.

Role of These Stages

Both stages of the SBEM calculation process are instrumental in maintaining compliance with building regulations and facilitating necessary adjustments to building plans. By setting benchmarks at the design phase and confirming adherence post-construction, the process ensures that buildings not only meet legal requirements but also achieve intended energy efficiency levels.

Benefits of Early SBEM Engagement

Integrating SBEM calculations early in the design phase of building projects offers several advantages. It provides a clear roadmap for energy compliance, reduces the risk of non-compliance, and avoids the higher costs associated with redesigning or modifying the building post-construction. Early engagement also facilitates a more seamless integration of sustainable technologies and energy-efficient materials.

Impact on Construction Quality

Early SBEM engagement ensures that the quality of the construction is up to the mark from an energy efficiency standpoint. By planning for energy performance in advance, builders can use higher-quality, sustainable materials and innovative technologies that enhance the building’s overall energy profile.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Promoting Sustainable Building Practices

SBEM calculations play a critical role in promoting sustainable building practices. By assessing and ensuring the energy efficiency of new buildings, these calculations help reduce overall energy consumption and carbon emissions. They encourage the use of renewable energy sources, better insulation materials, and advanced technological systems that have lower environmental impacts.

Contribution to Environmental Protection

Energy-efficient buildings contribute significantly to environmental protection and sustainability goals. They not only require less energy for heating and cooling, reducing their carbon footprint, but also set a standard for future construction projects, promoting a more sustainable industry.


SBEM calculations are fundamental in ensuring that new builds in the UK are compliant, efficient, and sustainable. They are not merely a regulatory requirement but a significant contributor to the environmental sustainability of the building sector.

By adhering to these calculations from the early stages of design, stakeholders in construction projects can not only meet legal standards but also lead in the transition towards a more sustainable future.

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