In June 2022, the software responsible for calculating EPC ratings called the Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM) was updated.
Developed by the BRE for the Department for Communities and Local Government, the software analyses the energy consumption and carbon emissions of commercial buildings. It was modified in 2022 to comply with current UK building regulations, and calculates the monthly energy use and carbon dioxide emissions of a building .
It does this using a combination of the description of the building’s geometry, its construction, the building’s use and the way in which it is heated, to ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting equipment. At the end of the analysis, a score is given, and it is this score which is then translated into an EPC rating for the building.
However, since the new software was rolled out in June 2022, it has become evident that buildings have been awarded better EPC outcomes if they have electric supplied power, over those powered by natural gas.
Why is this important?
What this means is that buildings that had previously been assessed as having a particular EPC rating, could now be given a lower rating if the main form of heating is powered by natural gas instead of electricity.
This is important in the context of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) which, from 1 April 2023, states that commercial buildings with EPC ratings of E or lower are now not lawfully allowed to continue to be let.
Landlords who previously had compliant EPC ratings may now find that this is no longer the case at reassessment.
We have seen several cases of this, including one building that was reassessed with electric powered heating and works to replace lighting with LEDs which jumped from EPC rating of E to a B. Meanwhile, another building powered by Natural Gas fell from a previous EPC rating of C to a D, even though the premises had been fully upgraded to LED lighting.
Shining a light on LED Lighting
Lighting accounts for circa 20% of electricity consumption in the UK and in commercial buildings this can rise to nearly 40% according to the Carbon Trust. Upgrading to LED lighting, together with motion sensors / PIR lighting, can therefore be transformative in both energy use and EPC rating, as well as consequential carbon savings.
Since 2012, the cost to install LED lighting has decreased by over 90% per kilolumen. It offers landlords and owner occupiers one of the shortest payback periods for the greatest energy efficiency gains.
But make sure you opt for the right LED lighting because recent EPC recommendation reports still refer, for example, to replacing T8 LED lighting with T5 conversion kits, despite these fluorescent tubes and low performing LED being phased out from September 2023.
If you are looking to upgrade lighting or plant and equipment, it is worth seeking professional advice about what choices you make will deliver the biggest energy efficiency gains.
To ensure the best possible EPC rating, it is important to provide EPC assessors with accurate data. Without providing the exact make or model of lighting or M&E plant, an assessor may assume a standard default which might not reflect what you have in place. This will result in an inexact EPC.
Avoid false economies
Improving your EPC through investment in LED lighting or heating are valuable ways to improve the energy efficiency of your building, but it can be a false economy if you don’t address some of the basics first.
If the building’s fabric has draughts, there are issues with insulation or you have poorly fitting windows, it’s akin to driving around in your car in the summer, with air-conditioning on and your windows open.
You need to address some of the basics first, before exploring more costly options like heat pumps or solar PV installation.
It is also worth looking at your building’s heating controls, to ensure that they are set by timer to be used only when actually required.
When on a default setting, or without the ability to change your heating to compensate for what the weather is doing outside, results in more energy consumption and a decrease in energy efficiency – not to mention unhappy staff!
Whilst questions have been raised over the level of MEES enforcement by local authorities, it is remains important to address the energy efficiency of your commercial premises, and there is no need to wait until lease expiry or lease renewal to have a conversation about improving the energy efficiency of your building – whether you are a landlord or tenant.
Our energy and sustainability team can help – from MEES and EPC strategies and green lease advice, to project management of any energy efficiency improvement works. Get in touch for more information.