The requirement for DECs is part of the UK implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). A consultation has been launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) into the "current regime and how it could be streamlined and improved". This consultation has forced members of the Energy Assessor community to look in more detail at the EPBD itself with concerning results.
While "streamlined" is definitely on the agenda it seems that "improved" is not. The consultation appears to be focused largely on removing as many public buildings as possible from having to be visibly accountable to the public for their management of their energy use. A core objective seems to be to define "frequently visited by the public" in such a way that buildings such as schools do not fit. This will allow them to be excluded from DECs required by the UK governments wording of "buildings occupied by public authorities and frequently visited by the public".
The first problem is that in the UK legislation "buildings occupied by public authorities and frequently visited by the public" indicates a single group of buildings which are both "occupied by public authorities" and "frequently visited by the public". The specific wording of the Directive that the UK legislation must comply with however is……
(24) Buildings occupied by public authorities and buildings frequently visited by the public should set an example by showing that environmental and energy considerations are being taken into account and therefore those buildings should be subject to energy certification on a regular basis. The dissemination to the public of information on energy performance should be enhanced by clearly displaying these energy performance certificates, in particular in buildings of a certain size which are occupied by public authorities or which are frequently visited by the public, such as shops and shopping centres, supermarkets, restaurants, theatres, banks and hotels.
These are clearly 2 distinctly separate groups in the EPBD. The specific wording used places the requirement on both buildings occupied by public authorities (whether frequently visited by the public or not) and buildings frequently visited by the public (whether occupied by public authorities or not).
There appears to be no legitimate way to read paragraph 24 as limiting the requirement for "certification on a regular basis" and "dissemination to the public of information on energy performance" as being limited to only buildings which are both occupied by a public authority and frequently visited by the public. It clearly applies to buildings which are one, the other or both.
(To make paragraph 24 compatible with the existing UK implementation you need to remove the 2nd use of the word “building” from the 1st sentence, replace the word "or" with the word "and" in the 2nd sentence and then ignore the types of buildings given as examples of those intended to be included. The directive does not allow member states the scope to unilaterally re-word it).
The second problem is that the consultation is interpreting "subject to energy certification on a regular basis" as allowing once every 10 years for the buildings which have been singled out as needing to "set an example". 10 years is actually the minimum frequency that EPBD allows for any certification so is the minimum requirement for the worst case scenarios, certainly not an acceptable frequency for the exemplars.
We already seem to have a situation where….
1) buildings occupied by public authorities but excluded from DECs because they are not frequently visited are a clear breach of the EPBD
2) not requiring shops, shopping centres, supermarkets, restaurants, theatres, banks and hotels of appropriate size to have DECs is a clear breach of the EPBD
3) dropping the frequency of assessment for DECs on buildings below 1,000m2 is a clear breach of the EPBD
Not only is the UK implementation not "gold-plating" as claimed in the consultation but it is actually already failing to meet the minimum requirement by a considerable margin. In our opinion a consultation which serves only to increase non-compliance with a European Directive that there is no option not to comply with is fundamentally flawed and needs to be withdrawn. We do need a consultation that focuses entirely on how to improve the effectiveness of DECs while ensuring compliance with the Directive but we do not need one that absorbs everyone's time and effort in arguing against actions the Government cannot legally take anyway.
It almost defies belief that we should be facing this clear attempt to downgrade the accountability of public buildings for their energy efficiency in the same week as we have a joint statement from the party leaders (click here to view) declaring their commitment to “act and ensure others act with us” so “the UK will play its part in ensuring an ambitious outcome”.
Vice Chair, DCHI
19th February 2015
The consultation document is available here. The consultation closes on 11th March 2015
The government’s own impact assessment in November 2011 clearly states (on the front page) that implementation does not go beyond minimum EU requirements and is available here.
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive EPBD is available here.
Note for publishers
The statement above is made on behalf of DCHI.
DCHI is The South West Association for Energy Assessors, Green Deal Advisors & Residential Property Surveyors and is a founding member of the Alliance of Energy Assessor Associations. If published on the Internet it must include a link to www.dchi.org.uk unless prior permission to use without a link has been obtained from the author.