Mandatory display of annual energy certificates to be extended

In a new scheme proposed by the government, all larger commercial and industrial buildings will be mandated to display annual energy certificates. This will initially affect offices over 1,000m2of which there are approximately 10,000 in England and Wales. However, the proposal includes plans to extend to more varied sites in the future, including smaller buildings. So, why the change and how might it impact businesses in the UK?

What does the proposal include?

Currently, large commercial buildings are required to display an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) only if their total useful floor area is over 500 square metres, is frequently visited by the public, and an EPC has already been produced for the building’s sale, rental or construction. EPCs measure the building emission rate (kgCO2/m² per year) and primary energy use (kWh/m² per year) for the core HVAC and building fabric assets.

EPCs are valid for 10 years, once an EPC reaches the ten year point and expires, there is no automatic requirement to produce a new one. A further EPC will only be required when the property is next sold, let or modified.

In October 2019, the Government told the Climate Change Committee that it would consult on introducing a new scheme that would rate commercial and industrial buildings based on their actual energy consumption and carbon emissions.

As a result of this, the government launched a new consultation called ‘Introducing a Performance-Based Policy Framework in large Commercial and Industrial Buildings in England and Wales’. This is the first step towards introducing a national performance-based policy framework that aims to reduce energy consumption and emissions.

How does this differ from DECs?

A Display Energy Certificate (DEC) rates public sector buildings over 250m2 based on actual energy consumption, so why not simply expand this to commercial buildings? According to the proposal, the new rating framework will look to modernise and go beyond what (DECs) currently offer.

Why the change?

Larger office buildings use over 53% of the energy used by all commercial and industrial buildings. This means that more frequent audits and stricter oversight will help to root out waste and reduce overall consumption. Success from similar policies has already been seen in countries like Australia who reduced consumption by 34% in 10 years with the National Australian Built Environment Rating System.

In this global push for energy efficiency and retrofitting, the UK is falling behind. Since 2016, similar requirements have been mandatory in all non-residential buildings over 500m2 throughout the European Union.

What are the benefits of the proposal?

Mandating more frequent energy evaluations will help to identify areas of inefficiency or, at the very least, raise awareness around energy consumption. While retrofitting the UK’s predominantly old building stock is a daunting task, the benefits could be enormous. This initiative alone is predicted to save British businesses over £1 billion annually and reduce carbon emissions by 8m tonnes when completed.

The Government is also considering including waste, water usage and air quality standards. None of these are currently required for either EPCs or DECs, and could lead to further cost savings for businesses.

How can EIC help?

The government plans to introduce the new rating system in 3 phases over the 2020s. The 1st phase is aimed at the office sector and has been planned to start in April 2022. EIC helps its clients stay informed and prepared for policy shifts such as these. In a net zero economy, staying ahead of the curve will be crucial to business resilience and growth.

As emission reduction targets become more important, energy reporting will become an essential part of managing a successful business or property. EIC can help you stay compliant with fast-changing legislation by streamlining and simplifying any and all of your energy admin. Our energy specialists have extensive experience with EPBD requirements including DECs, EPC and TM44 certification. We can go beyond mandatory reporting and certification to ensure you are as sustainable and energy-efficient as possible.

EIC can help you stay ahead of the curve. To find out more contact us today.

Clarity of vision: Intelligent buildings

EIC explores the potential benefits to productivity that can be generated by effective and responsive environmental control, as well as the boon to cost saving and compliance processes it can provide.

Setting the scene

The percentage of the labour market now working from home (WFH), due to the lockdown imposed to fight the spread of COVID-19, is unprecedented with Finder estimating that 60% of the UK’s 33.7 million labourers are now working remotely.

Most commercial enterprises are being forced to reevaluate the way their staff perform their roles and the limitations imposed by location and direct proximity to colleagues and management. 

While WFH has demonstrated some obvious benefits, time saved by cutting out commutes for example, there are still many roles that require working from site.

Additionally, many employers will choose to return to a state of normality for logistical reasons like communication and conferencing that suffer novel limitations when used remotely. 

One of the upsides of COVID-19 will be an increased awareness and respect for the effect of working environment on productivity as well as on employee health.

Making informed decisions

Air quality, temperature and humidity are fluctuating qualities of an internal environment while lighting is more static.  However, they can each be directed according to need, tracked for data analysis and there is evidence that all of them affect productivity in the workplace.

“System design and the deployment of correctly implemented controls are the single biggest components to ensuring environmental conditions are correctly maintained.”

-Mark Longley, Head of Operations Solutions, t-mac

silhouette of trees near calm body of water at night panoramic photography

Air quality

The widespread attraction of commercial air conditioning is that it can provide a stable and consistent utility cost to weigh against air quality control, meaning that windows can be ‘sealed’ to prevent costly and unpredictable heat loss. 

Unfortunately, a lack of CO2 monitoring can lead to saturation in the internal environment which, in turn, can impair the cognitive functions of your team and lead to a drop in productivity. 

A 2015 report from Harvard University, titled “Economic, Environmental, and Health Implications of Enhanced Ventilation in Office Buildings”, demonstrated that:

The public health benefits of enhanced ventilation far exceed the per occupant economic costs… Even with conservative estimates, the increased productivity of an employee is over 150 times greater than the resulting energy costs.”

Ironically too much CO2 can often trick the brain into thinking that temperatures are uncomfortably high-meaning that air conditioning can actually be counterproductive to its original purpose if it is unable to respond dynamically to your needs.

“I don’t think our field has done a good job of reaching out to the real estate developers, managers, and owners of businesses that can make this change… I don’t think it’s acknowledged that changing these factors can make a difference.”

-Piers MacNaughton, Harvard

Temperature control

A discussion on air quality control necessitates one on temperature regulation since the two are often confused with one another. System-wide temperature control has been a standard in modern work and living space for decades, however its adaptability leaves something to be desired. 

The current fluctuations in British weather are an expected side effect of climate change however the thermal regulation of most offices isn’t equipped to respond to wide swings in temperature or humidity ranges-both of which affect our perception of temperature.

Additionally, recent reports have demonstrated human productivity is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature:

“The results show that performance increases with temperature up to 21-22 o C, and decreases with temperature above 23-24 o C. The highest productivity is at temperature of around 22 o C. For example, at the temperature of 30 o C the performance is only 91.1% of the maximum”

A collaboration between the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Helsinki University of technology, the report also stated:

“There is an obvious need to develop tools so that economic outcomes of health and productivity can be integrated into cost-benefit calculations with initial, energy and maintenance costs.”

Lighting

Finally, the internal lighting systems a business utilises can have a dramatic affect on productivity since they have a direct relationship with their staff’s circadian rhythms, the aspect of our biology that tells us when it is time to be engaged and time to rest.

Psychological studies have also shown that people’s mood and productivity can be affected by the ‘temperature’ of light as well i.e. whether light feels warm or cold to look at.

“There is growing evidence for a link between lighting conditions, shift-work and biological health conditions: an area likely to receive more attention from researchers in future.”

Lighting, Well-being and Performance at Work, by Professor Jo Silvester and Dr Efrosyni Konstantinou

Closing thoughts

All that being said, the key question is how to obtain the data and control necessary to make these systems work for you rather than just being extra columns on the expense report. 

Considering these elements as potential assets rather than liabilities might seem counter-intuitive but when the application of something has the power to affect productivity this dramatically, it is only a liability while it is not under our control.

As Jones Lang LaSalle’s 3-30-300 rule posits, for every dollar or pound spent on utilities like lighting and heat, you are likely to spend a hundred on people so why not make those costs go further by making what you spend on utilities count towards your people too.?

The recent SECR deadline also served as a sobering reminder of the importance of effective utilities management and regular reappraisal of existing practices. 

Intelligent building management will continue to grow more and more sophisticated, allowing greater adaptability to the needs of clients, staff and business owners, and EIC can help you to leverage this technology to increase both your staff’s productivity and your bottom line. To find out more click here.