Thousands of individual legal cases could be launched into the definition of the word 'public' unless clear Government guidance given

Building services experts this week predicted that thousands of pounds in legal fees would be wasted if the Government fails to provide more guidance on its forthcoming Display Energy Certificate (DEC) legislation.

Paul Martin, a group chairman of the Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA) said that several aspects of the legislation were so unclear that they could trigger legal advice to be sought in every public agency that tried to apply the instrument. Martin called for the National Audit Office to investigate the potential waste money from such legal activity.

Martin offered the warning at the launch of CIBSE's Low Carbon Assessors DECs training programme on Monday.

According to the Government's Guide to Display Energy Certificates, published earlier this month, DECs will have to be clearly displayed in the public area of any public building above 1,000 sq m that is frequently visited by the large number of members of the public. The DEC shows the operational energy rating use of the building where an EPC shows the asset rating. All DECs must be on display having been carried out by a qualified energy assessor on October 1st.

However, Martin said several key terms were insufficiently defined by the legislation, including 'frequently visited by' and 'large number of persons.' He added that the number of DECs needed for linked buildings, which are adjacent or have access to public buildings, was also unclear.

Delivery people, maintenance and employees do not count as 'the public,' but what about salespeople?

Paul Martin

Exclusions are “employees” and “non-employees visiting only for the purposes of delivery or to carry out maintenance activities” he said, "but what about everyone else? What about delivery people?"

The Guide makes three separate exhortations to seek legal advice in case of confusion. "This should be a matter of concern for the National Audit Office," added Martin. "We could save UK Ltd. a lot of money if all these organisations didn't have to take legal advice"

A DCLG spokesman said the the Guide was "the result of extensive stakeholder feedback and legal advice." He added: "We are also providing additional support and information through regional information and training events, further website information such as case studies and FAQs, as well as the dedicated helpline service."

The Missing Link ... DCLG's extra guidance on linked buildings

"If the link is a corridor only, it is unlikely to link the buildings. If the link has a functional use (i.e. has a reception or storage space) then it could link the buildings. If the buildings at each end of the link are designed or altered to be used separately, then they will not be linked whatever the use of the corridor."