From 4 January 2009, virtually all commercial property came under the regulatory requirement for an EPC to be produced when any building is constructed, substantially modified, sold, or leased. A comprehensive study has to be made of the building / leasehold, and detail taken of all fixed lighting, heating, and mechanical services installations. All data is collated to produce a simple energy rating, presented in colour-coded bar-chart format (as seen on domestic appliances and new cars etc.) from A – good, to G – poor. Some limited recommendations for improvements are also given.

Where large properties are sub-divided, and / or let to multiple occupiers, it may require either one single EPC on the whole, such as serviced office accommodation, or an EPC for each tenancy.  The latter will be more likely for example, in office buildings let as wholly self-contained units, or even shopping malls & precincts. The only main exemptions from the regulations are; places of worship; temporary buildings ‘on-location’ for less than 2years; wholly detached properties of less than  50 sq. m.; and certain buildings with ‘low energy usage’. The latter may include industrial sheds used for engineering, manufacturing etc., the principal criteria being that they must not use energy to condition the main interior space.

Agricultural buildings such as unheated barns, and basic warehousing, are more clear examples. In certain circumstances, buildings with B8 planning use classification, even with limited ancillary office accommodation, could therefore be exempted, but direction will be required from the relevant local planning authority. Though it may be a widely held view that this is another unnecessary imposition from government, in common with all the major developed nations, they have committed to a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, With research showing that over 50% of the country’s total emissions relate to property, their drive to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings, and to rapidly improve new-build standards is unlikely to therefore go away.

Is the EPC an irrelevance in this? For existing property, some would say so, particularly if the scope for economic improvements is limited.  However, considering the above-noted government commitment, it is easy to see why many suspect the days when commercial property business rates are weighted in favour of more energy-efficient buildings, are fast approaching.  The prognosis then will be far different. How accurately a property is graded may therefore soon have significant cost consequences.  As an EPC remains valid for 10 years – or until the property is next sold, modified, or let, securing a certificate from a reputable assessor, even if not the cheapest, will probably therefore have long term cost benefits.

Commercial Energy Assessments