Why energy certificates for non-domestic buildings are a no-brainer

This is a guest post by Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council. An open letter on energy certificates was sent to the Prime Minister today.

It’s really not rocket science. Offices, schools, hospitals and other existing non-domestic buildings contribute around 17% of the UK’s carbon emissions. That’s big fat juicy slice of the carbon pie, and all the juicier because the IPCC worked out that this is by far the most cost-effective place to cut carbon emissions.

And reducing energy waste in buildings saves lots of money too. So, a simple labelling system that rates a building’s energy performance A-G, with some easy to follow guidance about how to make cost-effective improvements, seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

And yet, it’s amazing how long this debate has been going on.

Some people have been arguing for a proper labelling system for non-domestic buildings for more than 20 years. The EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive actually requires Display Energy Certificates (DECs) for large public sector buildings – hence countless stories in the newspapers about poorly performing government offices over the last couple of years. The papers tend to be less interested in the fact that in the vast majority of cases, the process of rating the buildings has led to massive improvements in energy efficiency, and tax-payers money saved.

Watch emissions tumble
If you don’t know how much energy you are using, you can’t manage it, and most people don’t have the foggiest how much their office consumes, or whether it’s good or bad compared to similar ones. But ask them to get a DEC, and away you go.

Stick a big A-G label on the front door and wait til the CEO asks, “why are we wasting so much energy? How much is that costing us, and does it really send the right message to our customers and our employees?” Then watch the emissions and the bills tumble.

Which is why it was so welcome that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne all signed up to the roll out of DECs to all commercial buildings in the government’s Carbon Plan, published as recently as March. But why not make good on that promise and use the Energy Bill for the necessary primary legislation?

Open letter
That is the message from senior business leaders in the property sector, who have written to Government today to say that if we don’t use the Energy Bill, then it’s a huge missed opportunity.

Let’s hope Government listens, because business itself is saying not all regulation is a burden – that there is such thing as smart regulation, which can provide a level playing field and actually create new market opportunities.

If this government isn’t even prepared to ask us to measure energy use in offices when the people who own and occupy them are calling for it, just what chance do we stand of meeting our carbon budgets? The polite answer is, not a lot.

One comment

  • I agree that energy certificates for non-domestic buildings are a no-brainer. However without support from commercial property agents, DECs will go the same way as EPCs, 4 million issued with less than 20% recommendations acted upon.

    In this context, my proposal that would have got estate agents on board to promote EPCs was rejected in 2010 by DECC despite it having support from the NAEA, ARLA, Law Soc and the NIA. Yet another shortsighted decision by DECC.

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