The new European Union (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2019 ( the Regulations) came into effect on 1 November 2019.

The Regulations transpose an EU (Energy Performance of Buildings) Directive. The overarching aim of the Directive is to encourage Member States contribute to the long-term strategy of decarbonising construction and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Regulations will apply to all new dwellings commencing construction from 1 November 2019, subject to certain transitional arrangements. Transitional arrangements apply in relation to dwellings for which planning approval or permission is applied for on or before 31 October 2019 and where substantial work has been completed by 31 October 2020. They set an objective of making all new residential dwellings 70% more energy efficient than the performance requirements in 2005. The Regulations will also apply to existing dwellings undergoing "major renovations".

What's new - key provisions

New builds

  • All new builds will be nearly zero energy buildings (NZEB) by 31 December 2020 and have a typical Building Energy Rating (BER) of A2 compared with a current rating for new builds of A3. A NZEB is defined in the Regulations as a building that has a very high energy performance and the nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on site or nearby.
  • The Regulations identify some of the measures that may be taken to achieve this standard. The NZEB standard is achieved partly through improved air tightness in a building. Other measures include the use of energy efficient space and water heating systems, and the limitation of heat loss. It also makes provisions for measures that all oil and gas fired boilers shall meet a minimum seasonal efficiency of 90%.

Existing dwellings and major renovations

  • Where major renovations are carried out on an existing dwelling in circumstances where more than 25% of the surface of the building undergoes renovation then the energy performance of the building must be upgraded to a BER rating of B2 or equivalent. This is significant as currently almost 8 in 10 houses in Ireland have a BER of C2 or lower.

Comment

Compliance with the Regulations in the short term will impose an additional cost burden on those seeking to buy new houses and renovate in a time where the housing market is already under significant pressure. However, it is hoped that the short time financial pain will yield numerous longer term benefits. Examples of these include reduced energy bills, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increased health benefits for future occupants of NZEBs. The introduction of the Regulations represents another step in the Government's commitment to achieving its decarbonisation goals. Whether the Regulations go far enough remain to be seen.