UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


TOP (‘The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK’)

Meeting carbon emission reduction targets successfully will require a major shift in the performance of buildings.

Burntwood School Project as part of 'TOP'

1 January 2016

Key facts

  • Funding Body/Client:  EPSRC (UK) and NSFC (China)
  • Project Partners: The School of Architecture (SA) of Tsinghua University, China. In addition there is an extensive group of project partners drawn from organisations including: Industry, Government and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).
  • EPSRC support (UK): £0.80m
  • NSFC support (China):  ¥3m (£0.31m)
  • Duration: 2016-2019

Meeting carbon emission reduction targets successfully will require a major shift in the performance of buildings. The complexity of the building stock, the importance of buildings in people's lives, and the wide spectrum of agents responsible all make buildings an important area of 'policy resistance'. Policies may fail to achieve their intended objective, or even worsen desired outcomes, because of limitations in our understanding of the building stock as a dynamically complex system. This limitation can lead to 'unintended consequences' across a range of outcomes.

The concept of the 'performance gap' with regards to the energy performance of buildings is now well established and useful work to begin to understand this challenging issue has been undertaken. However, potential unintended consequences related to the inter-linked issues of energy/Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) present an even greater and more complex challenge - a challenge that is gaining increasing importance in both the UK and China. This project represents an exciting opportunity to address the issue of 'total performance' in order to reduce the energy demand and carbon emissions of buildings whilst safeguarding productivity and health.  Individual work-packages (WP’s) investigate component issues and are subsequently drawn together in a dynamic integrative process.

WP1 examines the contrasting context within which buildings have been designed and constructed and within which they are used and operated internationally, addressing the policies and regulatory regimes that relate to energy/IEQ but also the assessment techniques used and the ways that buildings are utilised.

WP2 builds on this analysis by undertaking a monitoring campaign in both countries to allow comparisons between the performance of the same types of building in the two different contexts. Evaluation of how energy/IEQ performance varies between building type and country. This package will enable the assembly of a unique database relating to the interlinked performance gaps, developing semi-automated building assessment methods, technologies and tools to enable rapid characterisation of probable pathologies to determine the most cost-effective route to remedy the underlying root causes of energy/IEQ underperformance.

However, energy/IEQ issues do not form a closed system. In the development of relevant policies and regulations, it is vital to consider the wider system, which is addressed in WP3. The team at UCL has undertaken pilot work within the housing sector as part of the EPSRC funded Platform Grant ('The unintended consequences of decarbonising the built environment'), successfully employing a participatory system dynamics (PSD) approach with a team of over 50 stakeholders and we extend that work here to other building typologies. Such an approach can help support decision-making in complex systems, addressing challenges central to the TOP work.

WP4 will govern dissemination of the research


UK Team

PI: Professor Michael Davies

Co-Is: Professor Tim BroydDr Ian HamiltonProfessor Dejan Mumovic

Researcher Co-Is:  Dr Jonathon TaylorDr Nicole Zimmermann

Researchers: Dr Esfandiar BurmanMr Georgios PapachristosDr Clive Shrubsole

Associated Researchers: Dr Samuel Stamp, Dr Lai Fong Chiu,  Dr Phil SymondsDr Sung-Min HongMs Paula Morgenstern

Several other researchers will be involved at various stages of the project

China Team

Tsinghua University is ranked as the one of the top two universities in China. The School of Architecture (SA) of Tsinghua University, was ranked first in the National Assessment on Architecture carried out by the China Degree & Graduate Development Centre in 2003, and took the leading position again in 2008 and 2011 in national assessments. Tsinghua SA has a high reputation both nationally and overseas, regarding its high quality of education and research. Tsinghua staff involved in the TOP project have won the State and Provincial S&T Innovation Awards more than 10 times, and have coordinated 12 relevant international cooperation projects, including IEA-EBC Annex 66 & Annex 69. The staff have also undertaken work that is of direct relevance to the TOP project including: a) NSFC “National Funds for Outstanding Young Scientists”- Built Thermal Environment, b) NSFC “Key Foundation Project” - Basic research on dynamic thermal environment and human thermal comfort, c) 12th - Five National Key Projects in the National Science & Technology Pillar Program (Ministry of Science and Technology) - Performance-oriented design optimisation techniques for green buildings, and d) National Funds for Environmental public welfare (Ministry of Environment Protection) - Study of integrated technologies for low carbon governmental office buildings. 

Professor Borong Lin (PI, THU) is Professor and Asst. Dean of the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University. He is an expert in the research of integrated energy systems and energy efficiency design, green building technology and evaluation systems and heat island simulation. He is enrolled in the Ten Thousand Person Plan by the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the CPC (2014, 200 people per year) and the Innovative Science and Technology Leading Talent Plan of Ministry of Science and Technology (2013, 200 people per year at national level).

Professor Yinxin Zhu (Co-I, THU) is Professor and Vice-Dean in the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University. Her areas of expertise are the built environment and Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) engineering. She is the Vice-Head of Key Lab of Ministry of Education on Eco-Urban Planning and Green Building Research and the Vice-Head of the Building Energy Research Centre.

Professor Youguo Qin (Co-I, THU) is a Professor in the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University. He successively served as Director of the Building Physics Laboratory, Director of Institute of Architecture and Technology, and as Dean of School of Architecture. His areas of expertise are architecture and building technology.

Dr Da Yan (Co-I, THU) is Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University. His areas of expertise are human energy-related behaviour in buildings, ‘Designers Simulation Toolkit’ (DeST) research and development, building energy code and standards, national building energy and policy study and energy efficiency of buildings. He is the operating agent of IEA EBC Annex 66 with more than 100 participants from more than 20 countries.

Dr Fulin Wang (RA1, THU) is Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University. His areas of expertise are building automation systems, energy efficient control of indoor environments, and building commissioning. 

Dr Bin Cao (RA2, THU) is Research Fellow in the Institute of Architecture and Technology, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University. His areas of expertise are thermal comfort, adaptation and health in the built environment, green building technology and evaluation systems.

Dr Juan Yu (RA3, THU) is Research Fellow in the Institute of Architecture and Technology, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University. Her areas of expertise post occupancy evaluation of performance of civil buildings, and building energy simulation and analysis.

Several other researchers will be involved at various stages of the project


In addition, There has been continual involvement with stakeholders through meetings, interviews, and workshops held to help direct the project and to engage with representatives from a variety of backgrounds in a participatory, dynamic process. Stakeholders include representatives from industry, central government NGOs, academics and end users/occupants.

Participating organisations include:

Allford Hall Monaghan MorrisCH2M HillFaithful+GouldPublic Health England
AHR GlobalChina Academy of Building ResearchFeilden Clegg and Bradley StudiosRICS
ARUP ConsultancyChina Green Building CouncilGuangdong Provincial Academy of BuildingZero Carbon Hub
Atkins GlobalCIBSEHoare LeaShanghai Research Institute of Building
Beijing Institute Architectural DesignCommittee on Climate ChangeJiangsu Research Institute of Building 
Buro HappoldDepartment of Energy and Climate ChangeLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Workshop 1

The first TOP UK stakeholder committee meeting took place on 11 January 2016.

Presentations given during the meeting are now available to view:

Workshop 2

n 4 and 5 April, 14 colleagues from the School of Architecture and Tsinghua University, China took part in a join workshop and stakeholder event in London as part of the collaboration of the TOP Project ('The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK').

Delegates were welcomed by Prof Alan Penn, Dean of The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and Prof Tadj Oreszczyn Director of The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources (BSEER). The project is jointly lead by Prof Mike Davies (UCL IEDE) and Prof Borong Lin (Tsinghua University)

An extremely stimulating and energetic series of meetings took place which aimed to promote understanding and lead to better integration of the project, which spans the multiple causes of the energy performance gap in buildings in both in China and the UK.

Presentations given during the workshop are now available to view:

Prof Tadj Oreszczyn: Introduction to BSEER:

PDF icon2016-04_prof_tadj_oreszczyn_introduction_to_bseer.pdf

Prof Mike Davies: The ‘Total Performance’ of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK -  

PDF icon2016-04_prof_mike_davies_the_total_performance_of_low_carbon_buildings_in_china_and_the_uk.pdf

Prof S Yingxin Zhu: WP1 Low Carbon & Energy Buildings in China Current Situations, Policies, and Outlooks -  

PDF icon2016-04_wp1_prof_zhu_low_carbon_energy_buildings_in_china_current_situations_policies_and_outlooks.pdf

Professor Tim Broyd: WP1 Contextual Review -  

PDF icon2016-04_wp1_professor_tim_broyd_contextual_review.pdf

Prof Borong Lin: WP2 Energy Carbon IEQ Performance Phase Development and Discussion - 

PDF icon2016-04_wp2_borong_lin_energy_carbon_ieq_performance_phase_development_and_discussion.pdf 

Dr Da Yan: WP2 Occupant Behaviour Research -  

PDF icon2016-04_wp2_da_yan_occupant_behaviour_research.pdf

Dr Nici Zimmermann: WP3 Introduction to SD and Integration:  

PDF icon2016-04_wp3_nici_zimmermann_intro_to_sd_and_integration.pdf

Dr Nici Zimmermann: WP3 Nici Zimmermann Progress in Participatory System Dynamics -  

PDF icon2016-04_wp3_nici_zimmermann_progress_in_participatory_system_dynamics.pdf


    For further information please contact Professor Mike Davies