Kas Mohammed at Schneider Electric explains that EPC requirements are only one piece of the puzzle.

Tightening of Energy Performance Certification (EPC) regulations by the UK government means that commercial building landlords are on a countdown to improve energy efficiency. The challenge is significant, considering that around a quarter (25%) of the UK’s building stock was constructed before 1900 and many of these are amongst the most inefficient.

On average, buildings waste up to 30% of the energy they consume, up to 45% of the energy used is due to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and up to 40% of a building’s space is not utilised.

From April 1st this year, non-domestic buildings without an EPC rating of E or above cannot be continued to be let. These regulations are set to tighten further. By 2027 these buildings will need to achieve an EPC of C before reaching a rating of B by 2030. Landlords missing these targets may find it harder to attract tenants and could face financial penalties, as well as missing out on the average 4% increased rents associated with a step improvement in EPC.

With more than 80% of all existing buildings expected to still be in use in 2050, a swathe of the UK’s building stock must now undergo a program of sustainable refurbishment and retrofitting. Current EPC data shows that there’s still a long way to go; around 70-80% of the UK’s building stock will need to be upgraded in order to meet 2030 regulations. However, those that focus these efforts solely on achieving EPC compliance will find themselves at an acute disadvantage.

The challenges of retrofitting for EPC compliance

While EPCs focus on the quality of the fabric and services of a building, they do not measure operational energy use. During an energy crisis where utility prices are at an all-time high, operational efficiency is a challenge we can’t ignore. While the tightening of the regulations is a welcome move, it raises the issue of the energy performance gap - the difference between the predicted energy performance of a building, as estimated by the EPC, and its actual energy consumption in practice. In many cases, buildings are not performing as well as their EPC ratings suggest they should, resulting in higher energy bills and carbon emissions.

These energy and carbon costs can be reduced through considering a design-for-performance approach. Commercial landlords are increasingly moving away from the ‘design for compliance’ approach, which has historically been the norm, toward a performance-based rating system. This is what NABERS UK certification now creates; a requirement to measure the energy use of their estates, bringing energy monitoring technology to the forefront to ensure compliance with the latest sustainability standards.

In refurbishing and retrofitting existing buildings, landlords and owners must consider moving away from EPCs as a baseline signal of success towards ongoing, performance-based measures, such as NABERS. But how can this be achieved?

Beyond compliance towards encompassing step-change

Retrofitting buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, beyond mere compliance, is not as complex as it may first appear, especially when working alongside dedicated, experienced solutions partners.

Today we already have the technology and services available to simplify these efforts, while increasing energy savings and lowering operating expenses. Digitisation and electrification are redefining how building owners can operate and maintain their buildings. Retrofitted buildings need solid technology foundations that enable data collection and visualisation to drive informed decisions to improve energy efficiency performance.

Digitising decarbonisation efforts in this way help streamline the management of aged facilities and mitigate non-compliance of inefficient assets and systems while providing the capabilities to reduce OpEx through cost-cutting solutions and the ability to minimise unplanned maintenance on ageing equipment. This is all before helping mitigate the challenges surrounding the industry’s skills gap.

The first step/ where to start/ the sustainable retrofit approach

To support our customers with the retrofitting challenge, we have developed a 3-phase retrofit roadmap that ensures a holistic approach to strategise, digitise and decarbonise estates. This all-encompassing approach ensures building sustainability delivers across the board - from emissions to OpEx and user satisfaction.

The first step in the Stategise phase is to conduct an energy audit to understand current usage and levels of optimisation. Consultancy services can then help to identify the most cost-effective retrofit measures that can be taken to reduce energy consumption and improve overall operational efficiency.

These measures could involve digitising through the integration of smart devices, software, analytics and services, all of which can be implemented with minimal disruption. The manipulation and validation of connected data enables the potential for decarbonisation.

To secure sustainable buildings of the future, owners and operators of buildings must embrace change - and fast. The sooner commercial owners embrace digital efficiency, the quicker they will see the business-changing benefits and impact that today’s connected technologies can offer.