Buildings Policy

The buildings sector accounts for 40% of the EU’s energy usage and offers the largest single potential for energy efficiency. The main UK regulations of interest are:

Energy certificates

Building Regulations Part L 2006 (Part J in Scotland and F in Northern Ireland)

In addition, the UK government has announced targets for all new housing to be "zero carbon" by 2016 and new commercial buildings by 2019.

Energy certificates allow a building’s energy performance to be measured consistently and objectively. This should help better performing buildings to attract a premium, thereby increasing the business case for energy efficient buildings.

Certificates grade a building’s energy performance on a scale from A - G. There are two types for commercial buildings:

Asset certificates (‘Energy Performance Certificates’, ‘EPCs’)

Measure the intrinsic energy performance of the building based on its design. They have to be renewed every 10 years and must be shown at the point of sale, lease and lease renewal.

Operating certificates (‘Display Energy Certificates’, ‘DECs’)

Measure the building’s actual performance based on metered energy usage. They are renewed annually and apply to public sector buildings with a usable floor area greater than 1000m². They must be displayed publicly.

For more information on EPCs and DECs, refer to the Department of Communities and Local Government website.

Government is currently consulting on 2010 Building Regulations, which will be announced in 2010. Current Building Regulations were revised in 2006 to comply with the EU Directive on the energy performance of buildings (EU EPBD).

The revisions to Part L set maximum carbon dioxide emissions for whole buildings. The regulations apply both to the construction of new buildings and renovation of existing buildings (with a total surface area over 1,000m²). For new buildings, Part L reduces carbon emissions by 25% from 2002 standards, which already reduced emissions by 15%. The net reduction of 40% from pre-2002 is often used as an indicator of improvement.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) believes that the revised regulations will produce additional benefits such as:

Higher quality of construction through the development of robust standard details

Improved skills in the construction workforce

Innovation in construction materials, components and building design innovation

Culture of continual improvement.

Future revisions to Part L will be one of the mechanisms enabling the UK to meet its targets for "zero carbon" new housing and commercial buildings by 2016 and 2019 respectively. DCLG will be updating Part L in 2010.

Part L is divided into L1A and L1B for domestic dwellings and parts L2A and L2B for non-domestic buildings. The Carbon Trust focuses on L2A and L2B.

In theory, one of the strengths of Part L over previous versions is that it is less prescriptive. Targets are set, but the building designers have an element of flexibility in how they achieve the target emissions rate, by the use of more thermally efficient fabric, efficient plant and even renewable micro-generation.

L2A is for new buildings and lays out the following:

Section 1: Capping the predicted in-use carbon emissions "locked-in" by the building design

Section 2: Imposing minimum construction quality criteria.

L2B is for refurbishments in buildings with over 1000m2 of useful floor area and includes:

Section 1: Defines the type of work which triggers the need for ‘consequential’ energy efficiency improvements to the rest of the building and criteria for their feasibility.

Section 2: Guidance on the efficiency measures required when extensions or conservatories are added, when there is a material alteration or change of use or when services are upgraded or expanded.

Section 3: Guidance on dealing with ‘thermal elements’ (walls, roofs and floors) to limit heat gains and losses.