European policy consultants
Rural development and renewable energy

New standards for energy efficiency in public buildings came into force in January 2013

The European Commission has confirmed that 19 member states are currently in breach of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which was adopted in 2002 and recast in 2010, and now face the threat of financial penalties from Brussels.

Residential and commercial buildings account for roughly a third of total energy use, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which xpects energy demand from buildings to more than double by 2050. In 2010, households were responsible for 25% of Europe’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to the European Environment Agency.

Unlike targets for renewable energy and carbon dioxide reductions, the EU’s goal of a 20% increase in energy savings by 2020 is voluntary. The EPB Directive is intended to deliver up to 5% of the reduction, by ensuring that carbon emissions from new public buildings are near to zero by 2019, and new private buildings by 2021.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires energy performance certificates (EPCs) to be issued for buildings, giving owners and tenants an easy way of comparing a dwelling's economy record.

From 9th January '13, the threshold for public buildings subject to EPCs will be reduced from 1,000 square meters to 500m2. It will halve again to 250m2 on 9 July 2015.

Under the Directive, which calculates end-use emissions from heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and hot water, member states are required to undertake a raft of measures, including:

- Developing cost-optimal methodologies to ensure minimum building requirements are met;
- Preparing national plans for the 2019 and 2021 deadlines to enforce zero emitting building guidelines;
- Extending requirements to set minimum energy performance levels for all buildings when a major renovation takes place; and
- enhanced inspections of heating and cooling systems;

All of the EU-27 countries have provided details of their planned financial incentives. But so far, just nine EU states, including UK, have revealed their national plans for moving to near-zero CO2 buildings.


Energy Performance of commercial buildings - DCLG guidance:

Note: EPCs are not required on the sale, rent or construction of:
• places of worship;
• temporary buildings with a planned time of use less than 2 years;
• stand alone buildings with a total useful floor area of less than 50m2 that are not dwellings;
• industrial sites, workshops and non-residential agricultural buildings with low energy demand.

Building Regulations in England and Wales were amended to take account of the Directive with effect from 6 April 2006.

The new requirements are set out in four sections:
- L1A for new dwellings,
- L1B for work in existing dwellings (including extensions),
- L2A for new non-domestic buildings and
- L2B for work in existing nond-domestic buildings.

This Directive aims to promote the energy performance of buildings and building units.

Member States are required to adopt a methodology for calculating the energy performance of buildings which takes into account:
• the thermal characteristics of a building (thermal capacity, insulation, etc.);
• heating insulation and hot water supply;
• any air-conditioning installation;
• built-in lighting installations; and
• indoor climatic conditions.

The positive influence of other aspects such as local solar exposure, natural lighting, electricity produced by cogeneration and district or block heating or cooling systems are also taken into account.

Setting minimum requirements

Member States are required to set minimum requirements for energy performance in order to achieve 'cost-optimal levels'. The level of these requirements is reviewed every 5 years. These may differentiate between new and existing buildings and between different categories of buildings.

New buildings are required to comply with these requirements and undergo a feasibility study before construction starts, looking at the installation of renewable energy supply systems, heat pumps, district or block heating or cooling systems and cogeneration systems.

When undergoing major renovation, existing buildings must have their energy performance upgraded so that they also satisfy the minimum requirements.

Certain buildings can be exempted from the application of the minimum requirements, including historic buildings, buildings used as places of worship; temporary buildings; residential buildings intended for a limited annual time of use; and stand-alone buildings with a total useful floor area of less than 50 m2.

When new, replaced or upgraded technical building systems such as heating systems, hot water systems, air-conditioning systems and large ventilation systems are installed, they must also comply with the energy performance requirements.

Building elements that form part of the building envelope and have a significant impact on the energy performance of that envelope (for example, window frames) must also meet the minimum energy performance requirements when they are replaced.

This Directive encourages the introduction of intelligent energy consumption metering systems whenever a building is constructed or undergoes renovation.

Nearly zero-energy buildings:

By 31 December 2020, all new buildings must be nearly zero-energy consumption. New buildings occupied and owned by public authorities shall comply with the same criteria by 31 December 2018.

Energy performance certificates

Member States are required to implement a system for the energy performance certification of buildings which includes information on the energy performance of a building and recommendations for cost improvements.

When a building or building unit is offered for sale or for rent, the energy performance indicator of the energy performance certificate shall be included in advertisements in commercial media. When buildings are constructed, sold or rented out, the certificate is to be shown to the new tenant or prospective buyer and handed over to the buyer or new tenant.

For buildings where a total floor area of over 500 m² is occupied by a public authority and buildings with a total floor area of over 500 m² which are frequently visited by the public, the energy performance certificate has to be displayed in a prominent place and be clearly visible (this threshold will be lowered to 250 m² on 9 July 2015).

Member States are responsible for putting in place a system of regular inspections of heating and air-conditioning systems in buildings.


Shops and restaurant owners could soon find themselves facing fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to comply with new government rules requiring commerical buildings that are open to the public to display their Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), under new rules introduced by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in January '13. These require all private commercial buildings larger than 500 metre squared to display an EPC.

Property owners must also have to hand a valid advisory reporting containing recommendations for improving the energy performance of the building. Private buildings are not affected by the new rule.

The type of buildings covered by the new policy could include large department stores and restaurants, sporting arenas and concert halls, airports and railway stations. It is designed to raise public awareness about energy efficiency and prevent inefficient properties from hiding a poor rating.

EPCs provide an A-G ranking of the theoretical energy efficiency of a building's structure. They are usually produced ahead of the sale or lease of a property by a qualified assessor, and are then valid for 10 years.

According to DCLG's guidance, a business can be fined up to £500 by the local council for failing to at all times in a prominent place clearly visible to the public, and £1,000 for failing to possess or have in their control a valid advisory report.