How to get the most out of your EPC Assessment

Simon Wyatt, Cundall

Simon Wyatt, Associate Director at Cundall looks at the EPC rating system and the introduction of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES):

With the introduction of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) in April 2018, there has been much scaremongering as to the implications of the new regulations. My comments are aimed at property owners and asset managers who are concerned that they will no longer be able to lease their property as a result of having an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G.

From April 2018, The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England & Wales) Regulations 2015, better known as MEES comes into effect. Initially they will prohibit the granting of a new lease on properties with an F or G rated EPC and from April 2023, it will then prohibit the continued letting of a property with an F or G rated EPC.

If they’re not considered and managed in advance, these regulations have the potential for considerable impact on the value of a property portfolio. An EPC commissioned today may affect your ability to continue leasing a building in 2023.

The bottom line

Before you do anything, it is worthwhile checking the existing assessor’s accreditation scheme; the level and software used for the assessment which is given on the bottom of the certificate. If the software is iSBEM and/or it is not a Level 5 assessment, then it is almost certain that the rating can be improved, probably significantly.

EPCs produced from simple Level 3 & 4 assessments using free iSBEM software can vary as much as 20% compared to a detailed Level 5 assessment using simulation tools. A variation of 20% can equate to two EPC bands, with the high level assessment generally giving better results.

Furthermore, the simple assessment usually means that the assessor uses default values due to lack of time and knowledge resulting in a worse rating. In contrast, a detailed assessment involving an experienced and competent energy assessor will be able to undertake a detailed review of the building, including researching the Operation & Maintenance (O&M) manuals and equipment installed to minimise the use of defaults.

Practical case study

A review of the EPC rating achieved for a central London office building highlights a number of the issues identified.

The building originally underwent a Level 3 assessment in 2008 using the simple iSBEM software, resulting in an EPC rating of G with a score of 159. The building again underwent a Level 4 assessment in 2009, with no changes to the building and the score dropped to 127. These were conducted by different assessors from the same company.

In 2013, Cundall undertook a Level 5 assessment with a detailed survey of the building to gather evidence. This included a review of the O&M manuals for the building, which were conveniently located on top of a cold water storage tank in the roof top plant room. Using a simulation tool and the actual equipment performance rather than defaults, the office resulted in a C rating with a score of 65.

This emphasises the importance of collecting and using the building information as well as choosing the most appropriate software during assessment, which can improve the EPC rating of some buildings from G to C.

Top tips for better ratings

To maximise your EPC rating, the following are essential:

1.     Ensure the energy assessor allows for a detailed survey

2.     To provide the assessor with as much information as possible

3.     Notify any existing tenants of the survey, so the assessor has access

4.     Ensure the assessor is using Level 5 software

5.     Ensure the assessor identifies the use of defaults

6.     Liaise with the assessor before the EPC is finalised to minimise the defaults

If all else fails…

If you still cannot achieve an EPC rating of E or better, then you will need to consider improvements to your building. The first thing to consider is that there are exemptions to the MEES regulations; speak to your energy assessor to see if any apply to your building.

Failing this, you’ll need to look at cost effective improvements. For existing office buildings, the CO2 emissions are typically split between lighting, ventilation and heating so these should be the first things to look at. A competent energy assessor will be able to advise you on the best course of action to achieve what you need.