Premises visited frequently by the public may have to display actual energy under new legislation

The Government will issue a consultation on making display energy certificates (DECs) mandatory in private buildings later this year.

At present the DECs, which show the operational performance of a building based on actual energy consumption, are only slated for public buildings. From October 1 this year all buildings above 1,000 m2 occupied by a public authority or a building providing a public service to a large number of people must display a DEC in a prominent position.

The Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) being phased in from next week for non-domestic buildings reflect, instead, the buildings theoretical consumption of energy based on the SBEM.

The CLG said it had received expressions of interest about displaying DECs from private organisations and that it was possible for them to lodge operational performance of their buildings on the Landmark database and receive a certificate for display.

John Alker, spokesman for the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) welcomed the move: "EPCs are an important weapon in the fight against climate change, but UK-GBC has long advocated the roll-out of Display Energy Certificates beyond just public buildings.

"As we’ve seen so often, there is a disparity between predicted and actual use of energy – and it’s only through better in-use data that steps can be taken to cut emissions – and feed this learning into future building design, engagement with occupiers and government policy decisions."

Andrew Warren, Director of the Association for Conservation of Energy (ACE) said it was always the intention of the Energy Performance in Building Directive’s drafters that DECs should be shown in larger commercial buildings.

"The original directive required that DECs be displayed in buildings frequently visited by the public. The notion that they are only required in public buildings in no way accurately reports on the text of the directive itself." In support, he drew attention to the legal precedent of the Disability Discrimination Act which lists publicly accessible buildings from hotels to places of worship.

Avoiding 'too much too soon' is the most important thing ...

Neil Sagoo, solicitor at London-based law firm, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, responds:

It is true that the roll out of operational ratings in display energy certificates (DECs) for many private buildings is overdue and that the asset ratings provided by energy performance certificates (EPCs) are an imperfect measure of energy efficiency in the sense that they do not reflect how well or poorly a building is actually used, regardless of how energy efficient its design is.

However, for me it is a matter of first things first. Regulatory requirements imposed by government must not only direct the market but also be mindful of where the market is at present. In other words, government needs to tread the line between both leading and following public opinion. To have imposed operational rating certification in accordance with the original EPBD timetable would, I believe, have been too much too soon. Therefore the idea of introducing first the residential and then the non-residential property market to the relatively less burdensome idea of EPCs ahead of consulting on the extension of the DEC regime is both necessary and sensible, despite the understandable keenness of many for the energy efficiency of buildings to improve at a greater pace.

Most of our clients recognise that the tide on this sort of thing is only going one way and, although their individual motives for doing so vary considerably, they are embracing the government’s attempt to engineer a market led, low carbon, energy efficient building stock for the UK.

Energy efficiency and sustainability indices are being developed (e.g. WSP Environmental and the IPD). Over time it is likely that sustainability and energy efficiency benchmarks will be adopted across the property market. References to those benchmarks might well find their way into some leases, development agreements and construction contracts. Although factors such as location and price are always going to be paramount, the energy performance of buildings is going to become an increasingly important matter for developers, landlords and occupiers.