Is the nation finally about to start paying attention to the energy performance of buildings?

As of last month, occupiers of public buildings are required to declare how much energy their premises actually use. If the scheme for display energy certificates (DECs) to be shown in the lobby of every public building works as it is intended to, it should only be a matter of time before people become aware of how well, or badly, energy is being used in a particular place.

The idea is that with increased public awareness comes increased pressure to improve energy consumption. Already the potential is apparent. At the National Railway Museum in York, the DEC assessor’s report sets out what should be done to make more efficient use of energy. When implemented, these measures will raise the museum’s operational rating from an E to a B, with a corresponding saving in its carbon emissions. Aside from gaining environmental kudos, the museum will stand to reduce its running costs significantly.

It’s also hoped DECs will kick-start the replacement of the UK’s inefficient building stock. Together, DECs and energy performance certificates provide potential tenants with invaluable information when deciding which building to rent. As public bodies become familiar with the energy rating system, it should increase the demand for offices with good operational ratings and hasten the demise of those that are poorly designed and inherent high consumers of energy.

But public buildings comprise only a fraction of the total building stock. If the government is serious about stimulating demand for energy-efficient premises, DECs should be rolled out to include private sector developments without delay. And as the demand for well designed, energy-efficient buildings grows, so too will the need for those with the knowledge to design and deliver them.