A golden opportunity to tackle energy inefficiency in buildings

Richard Hipkiss
Focusing on the positives of EPCs and DECs — Richard Hipkiss.
What can educate and encourage building owners and occupiers to manage energy performance effectively? The answer could be staring us in the face. Richard Hipkiss considers the value of Energy Performance Certificates and Display Energy Certificates. The value of Energy Performance Certificates is being lost in the advent of panic since the 1 October deadline for public and non-domestic buildings. An important fact is being lost in the communication of legal jargon, commercial discussion and framework agreements. An Energy Performance Certificate is designed to facilitate the provision of information in an understandable and straightforward manner so it can be grasped by all and used to drive improvements in energy performance. To clarify the legislation, there are two types of certificate for England and Wales — the Energy Performance Certificate and the Display Energy Certificate. The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required on construction, sale or rent of a non-domestic building (regardless of size). The EPC communicates the asset rating, in terms of the design energy performance, to the prospective purchaser or incoming tenant of the building. Requiring an in-depth calculation taking into account the construction materials, building services, activity and layout of the building, the production of an EPC is more involved for more complex buildings. The Display Energy Certificate (DEC) is required under legislation for large public buildings, over 1000 m2 in floor area where there is frequent visitation by members of the public. The DEC communicates the operational rating, the actual energy performance indicator for the building. Calculated using a much simpler methodology a DEC is basically a ratio of energy used in a building against the total floor area, within a set of tightly designed rules. An EPC is the legal responsibility of the building owner or landlord to produce and communicate to prospective new owners or tenants. The DEC is the responsibility of the occupier to produce and communicate to the users/occupants of the building. Either or both can be produced on a voluntary basis; if you consider the similarities and complementary information that is shared between the two documents, this practice should be encouraged wherever possible for best results. On a common level, both certificates present the eventual rating as a straight forward A to G. Everyone is already aware that A is more efficient from labelling on white goods and light bulbs, so why not take advantage of it. The key to the successful use of asset and operation ratings is in the information that is used to develop it. There are differences in the calculations in the way renewable energy is managed, for example. As long as these differences are understood by the energy consultant and communicated correctly to the client, we can focus on the common elements. Both certificates refer to benchmarks compared to a reference building and give a indication of good or poor performance without all the technical jargon that serves only to confuse the average person. A recent commission for a financial-services company for an EPC and a DEC (both voluntary) provides a good case study of this in practice. The organisation was under the impression that it occupied a badly designed building and assumed that capital expenditure would help reduce energy costs.
The value of comparing the EPC and DEC for a building. Believing it occupied a badly designed building, a financial-services company assumed that capital expenditure would reduce its energy costs. However, the Energy Performance Certificate showed that the building was ‘good’ for its type, whereas the Display Energy Certificate showed that it was using nearly two-and-a-half times more energy than a typical building.
Typical of a commercial building in many town centres, the building was built in one period, extended in another and refurbished periodically — with more focus on space and aesthetics than on energy performance. The production of an EPC challenged this impression, with the organisation receiving a ‘good’ D rating — typical for an existing building of its type. In contrast on the production of a DEC the organisation received a very bad ‘G’ rating, indicating operational performance was almost 2.5 times that of a typical building. The result is a powerful message to the 200-plus building occupants — a factual statement of building design efficiency with an easily understood rating of building performance. Who wants to work in a G rated building? Through the developments of recommendations and advisory reports for accompaniment of the certificates, with simple recommendations that could be understood by all and a more in depth technical report produced for the facilities management team, the organisation now has a simple energy strategy that can be embraced by all, accompanied with a standard methodology for tracking performance. Taking the information a stage further, the introduction of building log books begins to make sense. First introduced under Building Regulations Part L in 2002, the building logbook was designed to enable all occupants to understand and contribute to better energy performance. What better place to ‘log’ the information gathered during surveys for Energy Performance Certificate — not only the recommendations but also the detail, the zoning, the construction performance and the building-services efficiency. Creating a single record of factors that affect building performance, along with a methodology to track changes, adds significant value to a building — providing a record in place for the next occupier, facilities manager or energy manager. Take this thinking a stage further, and the building logbook provides the basis for the evidence and report pack required for meeting the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC). Harnessing the power of holistic thinking and collective information sharing is not a new concept, as business decisions are made at the highest level every day based on similar methods. Why should Building Energy Performance be considered any different? The sooner we all stop dissecting the reasoning for Energy Performance Certificates and focus on the positives that can arise from them, the sooner we can all get back to focusing on energy efficiency. Richard Hipkiss is Sales and Marketing Director with I-Prophets Energy Services.
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