Commercial Energy Performance Certificates

Commercial EPCsYou will have heard of the residential Energy Performance Certificates or EPCs that were instituted last year as part of the Home Information Pack legislation, but did you know that there is a Commercial Energy Performance Certificate that is currently being rolled out?

It is easy to assume that because both the residential and commercial EPC share the same name that they are similar entities and require similar surveys or skills, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is best to think of them as cousins, related in history, but separate families.

When is a Commercial Energy Performance Certificate (CEPC) required? You may not have been aware of it, but Commercial EPCs actually began to roll out this year, coming into force from April 2008. Already all non domestic buildings above 2,500 square metres that are being constructed, sold, major renovations or let will require a CEPC.  By 1st October 2008 this will be rolled out to all remaining commercial properties. As always there are exemptions, such as places of worship, buildings scheduled for demolition or temporary buildings. Anyone involved with any non domestic property should seek expert advice as to whether they need one or not, as there are stringent penalties for non compliance.

So what is a Commercial Energy Performance Certificate? Well, first off, there is no Home Information Pack equivalent in the commercial sector, the Commercial Energy Performance Certificate is designed to function on its own. Next, the survey itself is a thorough assessment of a non domestic building, from the construction fabric, through to the lighting, heating and ventilation systems that are in place. From there the data is analysed to produce a rating of how energy efficient the building is along with accompanying reports recommending potential improvements.

Sounds similar to a normal residential EPC? The general procedure is much the same, but on a Commercial EPC is far more intensive. A Commercial Energy Assessor (CEA) is a dedicated and qualified specialist in their field. An assessment site survey could last several days or need a team of assessors on a larger property, requiring full access throughout all areas, access above any false ceiling and access to plant equipment, even onto the roof on some occasions.  A CEA will also ask for access to various documents such as maintenance logs, gas certificates, pressure testing certificates, floor plans and elevation drawings. Finally, the software used in analysing the data is far more comprehensive than that involved in the residential sector, as are the final reports.

But that isn’t the only difference between the residential EPC and the commercial EPC environments. In the residential sector a qualified Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA) can cover all existing domestic properties and provide EPCs as required. In the Commercial sector properties are broken up into Levels based on various property factors. A Commercial Energy Assessor has to be qualified for the property level that they are undertaking.

So, all in all, the Commercial EPC is a very different entity from that in the Residential sector, even though they do share some core ideas. The Commercial EPC is a complicated environment and professional advice should always be sought. Try to avoid using panels or middle men, and speak directly to the experts in their field. This market will rely heavily on the quality of the professionals in it, so make a good choice when you engage a company or an independent contractor for your CEPC.

One final thought for the day. Rumours abound in the market that the government will postpone the Commercial Energy Performance Certificate, just as they did with the Home Information Pack a year ago. This is unlikely to happen for several reasons, not least of which is that the CEPC has been rolled out throughout the year without respite, no matter the issue.

Written by Symon Silvester.

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