For the last couple of months the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has been busy making changes to the Building Regulations in England. As well as changes to the guidance to Parts G and M, there have been revisions to the regulations themselves around Part L and Energy Performance Certificates which came into effect on 1 May 2016. But strangely, despite a statutory instrument running to five pages (SI 2016/285), the revisions will have very little practical effect. What is DCLG doing?
The short answer seems to be ‘tidying up’. The longer answer is: taking EPCs out of the Building Regulations and tightening up the definitions around energy performance. Let’s look at each of those in turn.
Energy Performance Certificates
The regulations governing the issue of EPCs for new buildings – dwellings and non-dwellings – was added to the Building Regulations 2000 in 2008, while EPCs for existing buildings were addressed in the Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and inspections)(England and Wales) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/991). Even though both sets of regulations have subsequently been revised, that original split has remained until now.
In a pair of changes, on-construction Energy Performance Certificates have been moved from the Building Regulations to the Energy Performance of Buildings (England and Wales) Regulations 2012. The only remaining requirement regarding EPCs is in the list of requirements a local authority must check before issuing a completion certificate.
The detail of the changes is given in the following paragraphs in italics. Feel free to skip them if you don’t need the detail.
SI 2016/285 removes Regulation 29 – Energy Performance Certificates –from the Building Regulations and removes all internal references to it. The only requirement associated with EPCs is in Regulation 17(2A) – Completion Certificates. The provisions the Local Authority must check before issuing a completion certificate now include the issuing of an EPC. New definitions of EPC and energy assessor have been added, pointing to The Energy Performance of Buildings (England and Wales) Regulations 2012.
The requirements for on-construction EPCs have been inserted into the Energy Performance of Buildings (England and Wales) Regulations 2012 by SI 2016/284 (The Energy Performance of Buildings (England and Wales)(Amendment) Regulations 2016). The new Regulation 7A is a close cousin to the now-deleted Regulation 29 of the Building Regulations.
There is, of course, a little problem here: Wales. SI 2016/284 applies to England and Wales, but SI 2016/285, as it addresses Building Regulations, which have been devolved to Welsh Minsters, only applies to England (leaving aside those wretched excepted-energy buildings). Presumably the Welsh government will issue further regulations to remove EPCs from the Building Regulations in Wales.
UPDATE 2016 05 04: I understand from the Planning Department of the Welsh Government that similar revisions will be considered for Wales following the Welsh Assembly election on 5th May.
The second set of changes centre on the calculation and expression of energy performance. The changes begin with amending the definitions of asset rating and operational rating of a building, then modify regulations 25 to 27A, to clarify that the target carbon dioxide emission rate and the target fabric energy efficiency have to be calculated using the method approved in respect of regulation 24.
Again, feel free to skip the detail if you don’t need it.
An asset rating is no longer a numerical indicator, but an energy performance indicator, which is determined from the amount of energy estimated to meet the different needs associated with a standardised use of the building.
An operational rating is now an energy performance indicator determined from the amount of energy consumed during the occupation of a building over a period of time and the energy demand associated with a typical use of the building over that period.
Regulation 26 now reads (new text in bold): Where a building is erected, it shall not exceed the target CO2 emission rate for the building that has been approved pursuant to regulation 25 applying the methodology of calculation and expression of the energy performance of buildings approved pursuant to regulation 24.
Regulation 26A now reads (new text in bold): Where a dwelling is erected, it shall not exceed the target fabric energy efficiency rate for the dwelling
which have been approved pursuant to regulation 25 that has been approved pursuant to regulation 25, applying the methodology of calculation and expression of the energy performance of buildings approved pursuant to regulation 24.
There are similar changes throughout Regulation 27.
The EPC changes tidy up an unnecessary division that should not have occurred in the first place. The immediate practical effect will be limited. However, by shifting EPCs out of the Building Regulations it also shifts them away from DCLG’s remit and firmly into that of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). It’s hardly a turf war, but it may make their lives a little easier.
The changes to the expression of energy performance will also have little practical effect for most people. I can only presume there may have been compliance problems somewhere which DCLG thought merited the modifications.
The only consequence of the changes that concerns me, is that the auditing of calculations of building energy performance is now formally separated from the Building Regulations. The link was never strong, following the introduction of EPCs in 2008, but it has been severed.
But having worked through the changes in some detail I am left wondering why they made these particular changes now.