In the February 2009 edition of property update, we reported on the Government's consultation on zero carbon buildings, published in December 2008. Although mainly concerned with the definition of a zero carbon home, the consultation also contained provisions relating to non-domestic buildings. The Government's aim is for all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon by 2019 (reducing to 2018 for new public buildings).

The December 2008 consultation stated that the Government intended to issue a further consultation, specifically on non-domestic buildings, later in 2009. On 24 November 2009, the Department for Communities and Local Government issued this second consultation. The aim of the new consultation is to seek views on the policy options available in order that the Government's zero carbon 2019 target is met.

The consultation is aimed at, among others:

  • property developers and builders
  • property owners and occupiers, including facilities managers
  • construction industry professionals.

The latest consultation states that responses to the December 2008 consultation recognised the case for regulation. However, the paper notes that, in the light of current economic conditions, it is also important to consider the costs and potential consequences of such regulation on economic recovery for the construction sector, and balance these with the benefits of early certainty around a route-map for future regulatory steps.

The consultation states that the Government will adopt the broad framework for zero carbon that has been developed for homes, but adapted appropriately to reflect the differences in the commercial buildings market and the variation of non-domestic buildings.

This means that it will use the threefold hierarchy of:

  • energy efficiency followed by
  • on-site or linked low and zero carbon technologies ('carbon compliance') followed by
  • off-site ('allowable solutions')

The consultation paper states that the most important differences that need to be reflected in the zero carbon non-domestic buildings policy are:

  • the much wider variation in buildings, which can impact on both potential solutions and costs. The Government therefore proposes to adopt an "aggregate approach". This means that the overall targeted improvement will be achieved across all new build, but that individual building types will be required to contribute to different levels based upon cost-effectiveness
  • non-domestic buildings are often more complex and larger scale than homes, and involve greater technical input in design and construction and a closer level of building control involvement and oversight
  • non-domestic buildings often have greater potential for on-site renewables (e.g. more roof space) and to play a critical role in the viability of community heat or energy networks.

The paper also states that the government wants to work with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and stakeholders to continue to explore the issue of valuation of sustainable buildings and whether they do or could attract a premium, to ensure the additional benefits of low and zero carbon buildings are appropriately reflected in valuation in future.

The questions asked by the consultation cover issues such as:

  • whether the Government should establish challenging energy efficiency standards for non-domestic buildings covering space heating and cooling
  • the impact of the costs of building to zero carbon standards in different sectors
  • whether the same measures and approaches should be adopted for allowable solutions for non-domestic buildings as those for homes
  • ways in which the public sector could usefully provide leadership for the move to zero carbon.

The consultation is accompanied by an impact assessment which analyses the costs and benefits for different scenarios for zero carbon standards.

For more information, and to respond to the consultation, visit the Government's website. The consultation closes on 26 February 2010.

Carbon Trust report

Separately, a report from the Carbon Trust says that, for the UK to meet its national carbon reduction obligations, Britain's commercial, industrial and public buildings need to improve from an average of an E energy rating today to C by 2020 and A by 2050. It argues that central to this strategy is the roll out Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to all non-domestic buildings by 2015 to provide transparency of energy performance across the sector. For more information, see the Carbon Trust's press release.

The EU is of course planning to amend the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive to increase the use of EPCs and DECs (see our alert from March 2009).