What is an Energy Performance Certificate?

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are being introduced throughout the UK in implement of European Directive 2002/91/EC. The introduction of EPCs in Scotland is being coordinated by the Scottish Building Standards Agency (SBSA), whose approach is different to the way in which EPCs are being introduced south of the border. EPCs are being introduced in Scotland under the statutory framework of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 and various Building (Scotland) Regulations.

In Scotland there will be a single type of Certificate – the Energy Performance Certificate. It is already a requirement to obtain an EPC for all new buildings, both residential and commercial, and in due course the requirement for an EPC will apply to virtually all domestic and non-domestic buildings, if at any time in the future they are sold or rented out. Public buildings over 1,000 square metres will also be required to display the EPC in a prominent position. In other cases the EPC must be affixed to the building - somewhere accessible, but protected, for example beside a gas or electricity meter.

Most buildings will be affected one way or another – only stand-alone buildings of less than 50 square metres are excluded from the requirement, along with conversions, alterations and extensions to such stand-alone buildings, unless they would increase the area of the building to 50 square metres or over. Buildings intended to have a life of less than two years are also excluded. The requirement for an EPC only applies to buildings that use fuel or power to control the internal temperature.

A "building" for these purposes includes a prospective building and references to a building, structure or erection include references to a part of the building, structure or erection.

What does an EPC certify?

An EPC provides information about the carbon dioxide emissions from a building and its energy efficiency. A rating will be given, similar to that which applies to domestic appliances such as washing machines and freezers. Two styles of EPC have been approved for use in Scotland, one for dwellinghouses and the other for all other building types. Both styles of EPC present similar information, but in different formats: the EPC for dwellings provides for both an energy efficiency rating and environmental impact rating. The non domestic EPC expresses the building energy performance. Both will provide recommendations for cost effective improvement of the energy performance of the building in question, which may involve suggestions such as the installation of additional insulation, or fitting low energy lighting and other measures designed to help save energy, reduce bills and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Who will provide EPCs?

Article 10 of the Directive requires that the certification of buildings be carried out “in an independent manner by qualified and/or accredited persons”. In Scotland, for existing buildings these independent assessments can be undertaken by recognised professional and trade organisations. The SBSA will enter into protocol arrangements with such bodies and has already entered into a protocol arrangement with the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers, Scotland in May this year, with the intention that CIBSE Scotland will accredit their members to be able to provide EPCs for existing buildings. EPCs will be produced as part of the building warrant and completion certificate process for all new buildings.

Before being awarded accreditation status CIBSE Scotland members will be provided with training on the use of the relevant software for calculating the energy rating of a building (for example the Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM) calculation tool – or an approved alternative). They will also receive training on energy efficient design and energy audit survey techniques.

Broadly there are two approaches to establishing the energy performance of a building – the operational basis in which the actual amount of energy used by the building is established, and the asset rating of a building which calculates the notional energy performance of a building. In Scotland an asset rating will be used for all certificates. This is the ratio of the predicted CO2 emissions arising from the actual building when subject to a standardised set of activities to that of a notional building with the same size and shape and used in the same way, but with defined elemental standards for fabric and building services systems. Software is available for calculating the asset rating of a building on this basis.

Who is liable to produce the EPC?

The EU directive requires that EPCs are to be made available to prospective owners and tenants when buildings are constructed, and the EPC must form a fixture within new buildings to this end. Scottish Ministers will make it a requirement to affix an EPC to an existing building when it is sold or rented out. It appears that the requirement to produce or affix an EPC to an existing commercial building that is already let would arise on the occasion of an assignation of the lease to a new tenant. Guidance leaflets are going to be produced explaining to owners the action that they need to take to comply with the requirement. The requirement is on the owner to produce the EPC and the expectation therefore is that the cost of obtaining an EPC would be borne by the owner of the building. The production of an EPC is an integral part of the construction of new buildings, but for existing buildings, it will involve getting an energy assessment carried out.

For multi-occupancy buildings with fire separating elements between units, the EPC to be obtained can either cover the entire building, or separate certificates can be obtained for each individual unit, at the option of the owner.

Failure to obtain an EPC will be governed by the enforcement powers of local authorities contained in sections 25 and 27 of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003. Section 25 will be used for non-provision of EPCs for existing buildings and section 27 for non-provision in respect of newly constructed buildings.

The requirement to display an EPC

While all new buildings and existing buildings that are sold or rented will have to obtain an EPC, only public buildings have to display the EPC in a prominent place. Public buildings for this purpose are buildings with an area of over 1,000 square metres occupied by public authorities and by institutions providing public services to a large number of persons and accordingly frequently visited by the general public, who have a right of access to the building or those parts providing services directly to the public. Generally such buildings would also be characterised by the fact that public funding is used to some extent in the operation of the building or in the general upkeep of the building or in funding costs of staff.

So commercial or professional offices, shops and the like are not public buildings in this connection, but public buildings could include premises such as colleges, schools and universities, theatres, hospitals, law courts, railway stations and airports.

Timetable for introduction

The timetable for introduction of the requirement for EPCs in Scotland is:

  • All new buildings: Introduced on 1 May 2007
  • Buildings being sold: From approximately Autumn 2008 to tie in with the introduction of the proposed Single Survey and Purchasers Information Packs in Scotland. It appears that this deadline applies principally to domestic properties, but that for commercial properties being sold, the 4 January 2009 deadline will apply
  • Buildings being leased: 4 January 2009
  • Public buildings over 1000 square metres: Must be in place by 4 January 2009