An Intelligent Approach to Complying with the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards

By Karen Duffin on Wednesday 18 April 2018

This month the UK government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) for commercially rented properties came into force across England and Wales, bringing potentially significant implications for many owners of non-domestic rented properties. With these standards now in force, landlords can no longer grant new, or renew existing, leases on any commercial property with a rating of F or G, unless they have proven to make all reasonable (i.e. cost-effective) energy-efficient improvements the building requires.

Recent research has indicated that as much as 20% of the current building stock will fall short of these standards, equating to a staggering £130 billion in commercial property. With penalties for non-compliance potentially as high as £150,000, there is undoubtedly a lot at stake.

As a first port of call, landlords should turn their attention to the quality of their existing EPC. It is recognised across the industry that DSM offers many advantages and greater accuracy over SBEM and results can vary between calculation methods, especially as DSM offers more flexibility to model energy saving technologies to suit individual buildings. Although both SBEM and DSM are approved methods for compliance, DSM involves full annual simulation performed multiple times per hour using real hourly weather data. SBEM provides exactly what its name states – a Simplified Building Energy Model - and is merely a compliance engine, not a design tool. In some cases, it will be possible to achieve a rating of E or higher simply by asking an experienced Energy Assessor to recalculate  the EPC using DSM. Using a software tool such as IESVE, it is even possible to run both DSM and SBEM calculation methods from the same platform, enabling a direct comparison of results to choose the option that delivers a more favourable outcome.

This approach can certainly bring the EPC up to a passable level, but why not aim higher for our buildings? As the market leading provider of dynamic simulation method (DSM) software and consultancy services for UK building regulations compliance (our consultants have lodged hundreds of EPCs over the years), IES are able to provide the tools, support and guidance to ensure that your building projects achieve the best EPC rating possible. What’s more, the possibilities for your energy model reach far beyond the EPC itself. That is why we want to encourage a more intelligent approach to complying with the new standards.

Although EPCs provide an important and required standard against which energy efficiency can be benchmarked, an EPC does not provide a true picture of a building’s actual performance. You need only look to our latest case study to see how significant the gap between predicted building performance, as outlined by an EPC, and actual building performance can really be. Ultimately, decisions surrounding energy improvement options should never  be founded on an EPC alone and the danger of attempting to do so is that landlords could be led into making investments in their buildings that are unnecessary or do little to promote building energy efficiency in real world terms.

EPC vs Real Building Model

The reason for this? An EPC does not take into consideration all sources of energy use within a building and many important loads can be ignored. For example, a building may already contain machinery or equipment that in the real world is producing high-level heat gains, which the EPC could disregard entirely. As such, the building may be fitted with additional (and expensive) heating systems that are of no real benefit and will lie dormant for the majority of the time. Meanwhile, a more thorough and accurate ‘real building’ analysis would have avoided such a decision and perhaps even indicated a need for cooling to counteract the heat gains and prevent issues with overheating.

An intelligent approach must take into consideration all energy uses within a building and deal with these in an integrated manner. This is the only way we can ensure that property owners make smart investments to improve their buildings that will return more positive outcomes in the long-term.

IESVE simplifies this approach by providing an integrated range of software tools which allow users to asses all aspects of a building’s energy use. This also includes the ability import real data for more accurate analysis, and even assess lifecycle costs to determine the feasibility and payback of improvement options from one single model.

IES Consulting can lend their extensive expertise, not only to achieve the desired EPC rating, but also to demonstrate how to get the most out of your energy model. Our team can partner with you and offer a range of services to identify improvements that will have meaningful impact and don’t just look good on paper.

Ready to take the intelligent approach to compliance? Why not contact our sales team to learn about our integrated software packages or ask our consulting team how they can support you now.