The future standards set to drive energy efficiency in commercial buildings

Business energy use in the UK has fallen since 2000, largely delivered by industrial process efficiencies.  But the energy used to run non-domestic buildings has remained broadly flat – the Government estimates it accounts for around half of the total energy used by UK business.

It’s not surprising therefore that a recent Government Call to Evidence (CfE) on business energy reduction earmarked buildings as a key focus area. The response set out only the complexity of the challenge, but the future role of mandatory standards in driving action.

Plans to tighten energy performance standards

The CfE showed a broad consensus amongst respondents that minimum standards and building regulations have delivered improved energy efficiency in non-domestic buildings. There was also agreement that tightening regulations would continue to drive improved energy efficiency in the future.

From 1 April 2018 all newly leased non-domestic buildings have been required to meet a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) E rating before a lease can be entered into or renewed. But the Government is taking this one step further, and from 2023, all privately rented buildings will be required to comply with this standard. In a bid to further tighten standards, more consultations will be held this Spring.

Similar steps are set to be taken across the owner occupier and new build stock. As part of that process, the Government announced it will hold a consultation on Part L of the Building Regulations in 2019, with updates set to be introduced next year.

Introduction of operational energy ratings?

The ‘performance gap’ was a clear theme to emerge from the CfE – i.e., the difference between how energy efficiency measures and buildings are predicted to perform, and how they perform in reality.

The CfE said that enabling businesses and landlords to better understand the operational performance of their buildings was therefore ‘key’ to driving effective policy making and improved performance in the long term.

To address this the Government is working with the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) on its Design for Performance (DfP) initiative which aims to change the way new office developments in the UK are designed and built. Under this scheme the base building energy use will be measured and issued with a building rating after its first year of full occupancy.

The Government intends to use the findings to review the ways in which operational performance can be measured and utilised across the diversity of the building stock to drive improved energy efficiency through current and future policy.

The CfE indicated that we may see requirements for operational energy ratings brought in, as soon as 2020.

Future regulation

Although the finer details on plans for building energy efficiency have not yet been ironed out, it’s clear that increased regulation is the direction of travel.

Forward-thinking businesses and commercial landlords will be laying the groundwork now to meet higher efficiency standards for both existing and new building stock.