Any building that’s built, sold or rented will soon have to be energy rated. That means a lot of assessments

Energy performance certificates for buildings became a legal requirement as of 6 April – sort of. Neither the state nor the property sector seemed well prepared as the deadline approached, and at the eleventh hour the government capitulated to pressure from building owners by fudging the deadline.

The same may well happen for the next phase of the process, display energy certificates (DECs), which are supposed to be required in all public buildings from 1 October.

The final version of the computational software for energy assessments, SBEM, has only been available for downloading since the beginning of April. And there remains concern in the property sector and among services engineers about whether there are enough assessors to tackle the expected demand.

At this point, only buildings of more than 10,000m2 need an EPC, when they are constructed or up for sale or rent. But by 1 October, all buildings will need a certificate in these circumstances. This is also the date from which public sector buildings need a DEC to show how much energy they consume.

An EPC rates only the building and its potential to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions. A DEC is an energy consumption rating that lets the public know how efficiently a public building is being run.

Some heavy lobbying from owners of large commercial buildings forced the government to ease the deadline for EPCs. Originally, if a building was for sale on or after 6 April, it would have needed an EPC right away. But now buildings already on the market only need an EPC when the contract is exchanged, or by 1 October, whichever is sooner.

Lack of action

A CBI/GVA Grimley Corporate Real Estate survey published in January found that half of the 178 property owner respondents were either unaware of the EPC requirement or had taken no action towards getting one.

Paul Edwards, head of sustainability with developer Hammerson, said EPCs and DECs would make tenants wiser when it comes to discussing rents. It remains to be seen if many tenants will want the lowest rated buildings; landlords may be forced to upgrade. More worrying, he said, is the confusion about where all the assessors will come from and what will gain a building an A-rating versus a G-rating: “This is still a black box to us.”

Market gears up

The requirement for certificates is a boon for building services engineers, given that hundred of thousands of buildings will need assessments. The market is slowly gearing up for what is expected to be a gradually increasing demand for both EPC and DECs, according to some consultants. To this end, organisations such as CIBSE have been offering government-accredited training courses to certify assessors as qualified to carry out EPC and DEC inspections. CIBSE estimates it had trained about 100 assessors ready for 6 April.

CIBSE has more than 700 low carbon consultants on its register and expects many of these will take the top-up training to become an assessor. Other organisations, including the RICS and BRE, also offer training.

Complaints about late availability of the SBEM software, originally created for Part L of the Building Regulations, may be misplaced. Paul Davidson, director of sustainable energy at BRE, and head of the team that developed the software, said a version has been available since mid-February.

“There’s not much change from the Part L configuration,” he said. “You can modify the EPC’s accompanying recommendation report, and the programme is also flexible.”

An important feature, said Davidson, is that the process leaves an audit trail of where the information came from and why recommendations were made based on that information.

Software for DEC assessment is about to go through tests with users, from information input to certificate production, said Faber Maunsell associate director, Lionel Delorme, who is overseeing its development on behalf of the DCLG. In March about 20 organisations, including the Royal Albert Hall, MoD, Natural History Museum and the Local Government Association, tested the software.

“We are going through feedback with the DCLG now and are aware that it must be finished quickly to give people as much time as possible before the 1 October deadline,” he said. “It might that we can make the software available while the end-to-end pilots are taking place.” Delorme believes the final version of DEC software should be available towards the end of May at the latest.

The down-to-the-wire launch of SBEM has meant many training and certification organisations are still developing their own interface software for the certification process. Glasgow-based IES has just launched its Virtual Environment package but said its DSM version (dynamic simulation model) – needed for the most complex buildings – will not be available until next month.

Hywel Davies, CIBSE’s technical director, believes about 100,000 buildings will get their EPC within the first year. But he doesn’t foresee a shortage assessors for EPCs and DECs. “EPCs are being phased in from this month so there is not likely to be a big rush. Also, many public authorities are already gathering data on energy consumption so they can be ready for 1 October when the DEC must be displayed.”

Some public bodies might eventually pay to have their own staff trained to become assessors, said Davies. “They will probably get their own staff certified because they will know their own buildings well, the equipment and its maintenance history.”

He doesn’t believe having employees assessing their own building will be a case of a police force being asked to investigate itself: “I really don’t think so. The way the assessment is set up means there is very little room for fiddling.”

Short route to accreditation

The Department for Communities and Local Government is responsible for implementation of the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which stipulates the need for certificates. It is confident enough assessors will be ready from day one.

A spokesman said the vast majority of potential energy assessors for larger buildings are experienced practitioners who will need only a few days of training for accreditation. “Training courses for those who will assess simpler buildings have commenced and training courses for those wishing to produce display energy certificates are planned for April,” he said.

It remains to be seen how many assessors are trained, said Nick Carter, director of building services at consultant Gifford. “Training and registration for an assessor will cost around £1000,” he says. On top of that is the cost of lost time and money, say around £5000, on project work while the training is undertaken. (A two-day CIBSE EPC course and assessment costs £425 plus VAT.)

Nonetheless, Gifford plans to have six assessors because, as with Part L, clients will expect the consultancy to do an EPC for their new buildings. Carter believes there will eventually be enough assessors because of all the professional organisations offering certification programmes.

“But whether we get much involved in certifying our people will depend on market demand for EPCs and the number of certified assessors,” he said. “What we at Gifford don’t want is to be having one of our good engineers sucked into doing a lot of EPCs.”

The DCLG says the market will decide what an assessor can charge for the service, and this will probably depend on the size of building.

Davies agrees: “Until some assessments are done, we won’t know. But I imagine those organisations that have kept good records of maintenance and energy consumption could be paying less because there is less leg-work to be done by assessors.”

Getting the data could be the Achilles heel for public authorities. If the government’s own statistics are to be believed, building services consultants could be very busy helping public authorities gather energy information for DECs in the run-up to the 1 October deadline.

A National Audit Office report in November found that 265 of 877 buildings reviewed had no energy consumption figures. Also, 300 of the 877 were unable to provide the figures for the proportion of energy they obtained from renewable resources.

Is the DEC deadline unrealistic? At least one consultant BSj spoke to believes it is, and that it may well be postponed.

Know your EPCs from your DECs

Both EPCs and DECs rate a building from A to G. A denotes highest performance.

Property owners need an EPC only if the building is newly built, to be sold or to be rented. Otherwise, they may not need an EPC until 1 October. An EPC is good for 10 years. Owners are not legally bound to upgrade equipment and structural areas that perform poorly. However, if improvements have been made to the services, the owner may want an updated EPC to reflect this, with a view to commanding a better rent or sale price.

Assessors look at insulation, glazing, boilers, air-conditioning and heating. They also consider solar gain, heat retention in winter and cooling in summer. An EPC is always accompanied by a report listing measures that could improve the energy rating of the building.

DECs are for public authority occupiers of any building or part thereof, whether or not they own it. Unlike EPCs, DECs have a ‘big-bang’ day – 1 October – from which they must be displayed publicly within the building. A DEC shows a building’s annual energy consumption but also an asset rating as a single line of information. This rating may be taken from an EPC if one has been done.

The DCLG realises that getting a year’s worth of data could be near impossible for some organisations and will make allowances for that, especially if the occupier has been in situ for less than 15 months before 1 October.

The A3-size DEC certificate will show numerically the operational rating of the building which will put it within defined parameters for A, the most energy efficient and G, the least. Eventually, a DEC will show the previous two years’ performance so it is clear this has improved – or not.

This will require well-documented monitoring of all energy sources, both on- and offsite. For district heating and cooling, and electricity generated on site or obtained from private distributors, owners will need the average carbon factor – for example, kg of CO2 per kWh delivered must be documented.

If the authority does not own the building, it will need close cooperation with the owner. The DEC will be valid for only a year and be accompanied by an advisory report which is valid for seven years. If the authority occupies only part of a building, energy consumption data will be taken from the building’s average. If this is skewed by a heavy energy user fellow tenant, the assessor will take this into account. Sub-metering may have to be considered for installation by the building’s owner.

Failure to display a DEC “in a prominent place clearly visible to the public” could result in a £500 fine. An additional £1000 penalty is possible for not having a valid advisory report.

Phase-in of certificates

6 April 2008 EPCs required on construction for all dwellings. EPCs required for the construction, sale or rent of buildings other than dwellings with a floor area over 10,000m2.

1 July 2008 EPCs required for the construction, sale or rent of buildings other than dwellings with a floor area over 2500m2.

1 October 2008 EPCs required on the sale or rent of all remaining dwellings. EPCs required on the construction, sale or rent of all remaining buildings other than dwellings. Display certificates required for all public buildings more than 1000m2.

4 January 2009 First inspection of all existing air-conditioning systems over 250kW must have occurred by this date*.

4 January 2011 First inspection of all remaining air-conditioning systems over 12kW must have occurred by this date*.

* Note - a system first put into service on or after 1 January 2008 must have a first inspection within five years of it first being put into service.

Source: Department for Communities and Local Government

Who needs a DEC

strong>All public authorities:

  • Central/local government
  • NHS trusts (not private hospitals unless they have NHS patients)
  • Schools and higher education
  • Police, courts, prisons
  • MoD and military establishments
  • Executive agencies/regulatory bodies
  • Public golf courses
  • Libraries, museums, galleries

Who won’t need an EPC:

  • Places of worship
  • Stand-alone buildings of less than 50m2 (except dwellings)
  • Temporary buildings of less than two years planned use
  • Buildings with low-energy demands, such as barns
  • Buildings scheduled for demolition

How to become an Energy Assessor…

… for energy performance certificates
1. If you are not on the LCC design register, book a training course. Details at
2. If you are already on the LCC design register, you must book a top-up course. Details at
3. You will have to demonstrate your competence in the use of SBEM or dynamic simulation software. Speak to your software provider about joing the Simulation or Calculation Register (or both) or visit
4. Submit an application form, downloadable from
5. With the application, submit two completed EPCs. One certificate must be for an existing building and the other for a newbuild. Most LCCs are likely to submit an EPC they have been commissioned to prepare. If no commissions have been received at the time of application, candidates may provide a certificate for the business premises they occupy, or may contact CIBSE Certification for alternatives.

…for display energy certificates
1. If you are not on the LCC operations register, book a training course. Details on
2. If you are already on the operations register book a top-up course. Details at lowcarbonconsultants
3. Submit an application form, downloadable from
4. With this you must submit a completed DEC. Most LCCs are likely to use a DEC they have been commissioned to prepare. Otherwise, candidates may provide a certificate for the business premises they occupy or may contact CIBSE Certification for alternatives.

CIBSE-accredited Assessors say:

News of the easing of the requirement from 6 April came as no surprise to John Field (left), a director of cost and carbon reduction consultancy Power Efficiency: “The ability of owners to have all their buildings assessed in time was stretched, to put it politely.”

He said the government has had to face up to two main facts. There simply aren’t enough qualified assessors, and the final version of the EPC software came late in the day.

Richard Hipkiss (right), sales and marketing director of i-Prophets Energy Services, agreed. But he warned: “Assessors should expect a labour intensive search for information. Many clients will not have sufficient essential data to produce a certificate. And for some inputs default information will be used but this will be of a quality to produce a worst-case scenario of rating.”

This means clients wanting quick answers may find themselves paying upwards of £10,000 for an assessor’s many hours on the job.