Thanks to inspiring programmes such as Blue Planet II and campaigns by the likes of Greta Thunberg, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the impact that our daily actions can have on the planet. This has led to a growing movement that is encouraging us all to become more mindful consumers, reduce our carbon emissions, and become more energy conscious.
The UK is at the forefront of these changes, with the government leading the way with increasingly strict legislation regarding the energy efficiency of our homes and commercial buildings. This includes new standards introduced in 2018 and further changes that must be reached by 2030.
In this article we’ll be taking a look at the requirements for commercial buildings, which buildings need an EPC, what is assessed in an inspection and, most importantly, how you can improve your rating to achieve the upcoming minimum standards.
EPC targets in the future
Although commercial buildings have been legally required to obtain an EPC since back in 2008, additional standards came into effect in 2018. Known as the Minimum Level of Energy Efficiency (MLEE), this aims to help improve the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the worst performing buildings.
This means that landlords in the non-domestic private rented sector whose properties have a commercial energy rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’ cannot renew or extend a tenancy until they improve their energy efficiency. From 1st April 2020, this will also apply to all properties including those where the tenants are staying in place. The regulations will be tightened further by 2030 when all non-domestic privately rented properties in England and Wales need to reach at least an EPC band B. However, this could potentially change as Brexit goes through.
Although these new energy standards might feel like yet more hoops to jump through and challenging to achieve, it could make a substantial difference to the eco-friendliness of homes across the UK. Of course, these new standards aren’t just about becoming more environmentally friendly. They can also help reduce energy bills for the property, put money back into your pocket long-term, make your property a more comfortable place to be, and in some cases even help protect the property from certain types of wear and tear.
Which buildings need a Commercial EPC?
According to government guidelines, you must have an EPC if:
- You’re building, renting, or selling a property
- A building under construction is finished
- You’ve made changes to the building; including splitting for separate occupation, providing heating, air conditioning or mechanical ventilation.
However, this doesn’t apply to buildings that are:
- Places of worship, such as churches, mosques or synagogues
- Temporary buildings that won’t be used for more than two years
- Detached buildings with total useful floor space of less than 50m2
- Industrial sites, workshops and non-residential agricultural buildings with low energy demand
- Building that are due to be demolished
If you don’t have an EPC available to a potential buyer or tenant, you could be subject to a fine. This can range from £500- £5000, depending on the value of your property.
Once you have your commercial EPC, you will also be obliged to display it somewhere visible if your building is visited by the public.
What if the building is split into separate parts?
If you’re building, selling, or renting the building as a whole, you will need an EPC to cover the entire property. This also applies if the building contains residential space that can only be accessed through the commercial premises below.
However, if the building has been split into sections with separate heating system, you will need to provide an EPC for each of the sections and another for any communal areas. This is also the case if the building also contains separate, self-contained residential accommodation.
If the building has a common heating system then you can either use an EPC for the whole building or for each individual part; the choice is yours.
What is assessed within a Commercial EPC?
The commercial EPC is assessed in much the same way as a domestic EPC. A qualified assessor will visit the premises and carry out an inspection of the property, reviewing how well energy is used within the building and how much heat or energy is likely to be lost.
The assessor will take into consideration how efficient your property is. They will look at your fitted lightbulbs, heating and air conditioning, and insulation. They will give each of these factors a score and will calculate the energy efficiency and environmental impact bands in order to provide you with your EPC rating.
The bands are graded on a sliding scale from ‘A’ to ‘G’ (with A being the best performing and most energy efficient.) Once the assessment is done, you will receive your commercial Energy Performance Certificate which will indicate the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the building.
You’ll also find useful information on the certificate which can help you improve your rating such as recommendations on what could be improved estimated energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, fuel costs and a full summary of your property.
How to improve your Commercial EPC rating
Many commercial property owners will find that their EPC band isn’t as high as required and they need to make changes to the energy efficiency of the building to meet the new government standards.
There are many straightforward and even affordable ways in which this can be done to help you achieve a better rating. This includes the following:
- Switch your light bulbs to LEDS: this is a quick, efficient and inexpensive way to improve your EPC rating.
- Insulate your walls and roof: Ensure that the insulation is at least 270mm thick to provide enough benefits. You should also fill the cavity walls with insulation.
- Install double glazing: A large amount of energy is lost through windows.
- Consider replacing the boiler: Older boilers can be very heat inefficient. Switch to a newer model and you can make huge changes to your EPC rating. Also consider using smart heating controls such as intelligent thermostats.
- Consider upgrading your air conditioning units: Choose a more energy-efficient model instead.
- Move over to renewable energy: Solar panels and ground source heat pumps are great ways to reduce your impact on the environment.
- Swap to a more efficient secondary heating source: For example, a wood burning stove better than an open fireplace
Of course, your previous EPC should also provide tailored guidance on how you can improve your rating. Please refer to this for detailed information.
As you can see, there are many ways you can improve the EPC rating of your property, many of which are quick and affordable. Consider how you could change your lighting, heating, windows, insulation, air conditioning and boiler to make your property a more eco-friendly space.
With all of this in mind, you can move towards surpassing the minimum ‘B’ rating that will be introduced in 2030 and make your commercial building as environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient as possible.