Many commercial landlords might already be wrestling with issues around bills, non-paying tenants, or rising mortgage rates but they can’t afford to ignore fast-approaching EPC deadlines. Under the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), all non-domestic rented buildings must get an EPC B rating by 2030 and although that’s still a few years off, the government has proposed a phased implementation of achieving a minimum C rating by 2027 which is going to be a particular challenge for any properties currently below an E. From next April, only those non-domestic buildings that make this grade can be let out.
With the clock ticking, landlords need to devise an action plan – and the best way to get started is by working with a trusted commercial energy assessor. They’ll calculate a building’s energy rating, taking into account the type of construction, including walls, roofs, floors and windows, heating, cooling, ventilation and hot water systems, lighting, and whether different parts of the building are used for different purposes. In order to produce the most accurate possible results, these assessments are becoming increasingly high tech. Murton & Co’s work with cutting-edge software firm arbnco uses its software platform to gauge building energy analytics by acquiring energy, carbon and environmental data to identify the right retrofit solutions for commercial buildings. After producing an EPC, we use Arbnco software to run the simulations for enhancements. They have also developed equipment and software to monitor indoor air quality, ventilation and thermal comfort which can then be used to inform strategies to improve and enhance buildings.
EPCs set to evolve
Looking forward, updated Building Regulations due in 2024 might mean that in the future, new properties will have to consider embodied carbon in the EPC metrics, such as where the building materials come from and how they were made. However, as the commercial EPC is a measure of carbon emissions, when the majority of buildings eventually become carbon neutral, carbon as a metric to evaluate the energy efficiency would then become irrelevant.
Assessment complete and armed with suggestions to make improvements to their commercial premises, landlords often find that new lighting and energy-saving heating methods make a significant difference to their bills and the comfort of their buildings. Offices, shops, and warehouses can suffer from poor natural light and must use a large amount of – often inefficient – lighting. Simply by converting to LED, landlords could save up to 50% on lighting costs and improve their EPC score. When looking at heating, an efficient air-conditioning unit helps, along with wall and roof insulation, and renewable sources of energy such as solar panels. However, it’s certainly not always the case that substituting the much-hyped heat pump is the answer; sometimes a blended system of gas boiler and heat pump is what’s needed – and that’s a conversation to have with a heating engineer and energy assessor.
Clients target compliance
Based in Lancaster, our work takes us all over the country, working with national companies. This includes James Hall – assessing their new-build SPAR convenience stores, focused on compliance with Building Regulations and achieving a net zero building (A-rated EPC), and partnering with Bradley-Mason to deliver the fit-out works at 35 Toolstation branches so that they comply with Building Regulations and landlord green clauses.
These clauses are becoming a new trend where tenants are bound by the lease to not degrade the EPC rating of the building due to their alterations and fit-out works. We’ve also been working in partnership with Bradley-Mason on several fit-out projects for other trade counter clients such as Wolesley Centres and Nisbits.
A further ongoing project is with Assura plc; after completing 400 surveys to ascertain their baseline EPC ratings, we reviewed the whole of their medical centre portfolio utilising arbnco’s powerful simulation software to highlight the enhancements needed to achieve an EPC band B. This ongoing programme – supporting Assura’s SixbySix strategy – involves assisting with due diligence when acquiring medical centres, and we are now surveying 120 buildings following completion of the enhancements.
We always advise that when refurbishments are being planned, it’s imperative to engage with the client to clarify their aims and objectives and then working within a collaborative group – including the design team and energy assessor – to develop a strategy that will achieve the client’s goal. Unfortunately, some landlords are not so well organised; we still come across far too many instances where we have received enquiries for an EPC after the refurbishment works have already been completed without a prior assessment, which puts the development at risk of non-compliance with the minimum EPC regulations. That’s why a thorough assessment of the building’s fabric and building services can be invaluable along with early conversations about the aims for the project to ensure the right measures are implemented.
While the government might possibly delay the change in commercial landlords’ obligation to get a B rating due to rising cost-of-living issues and there’s also a question around what they can actually afford, it’s clear that the rise in fuel costs and further planned hikes in energy efficiency standards make carbon-reducing measures a smart investment for landlords and tenants alike.
Article by Jonathan Murton
Managing Director at Murton & Co
Jonathan is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), with over 20 years’ experience as both a surveyor and consultant to the building industry.
He is a qualified energy assessor, for existing and new buildings, and employs modern surveying techniques to apply his craft. These include CAD, 3D-simulation and building information modelling, as well as the use of unmanned aircraft for aerial surveys. In the past, Jonathan has trained up aspiring energy assessors and created bespoke courses for City & Guilds qualifications. He has also worked as an RICS counsellor for the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) programme and as an advisor for the government’s Green Deal.