Use Real Data and See the Truth

By Kieran Crowe
25th August, 2020

The wrongness of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES).  When it comes to energy efficiency, there is another way to capitalise on making us all use buildings more efficiently.

For property energy performance, we currently rely on MEES, but as part of Low Carbon Alliance I want this to change.

Why?  Well, I believe that in use measurements give a much clearer picture of energy use and can create more efficiency for property owners and occupiers alike.

WHAT IS MEES?

Since 2018, landlords in England and Wales are set on a legislative agenda to deliver

(MEES).  Irrespective of the length of tenancy, regulations will affect all rented property.

These regulations made it unlawful for landlords to grant a new lease for properties that have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating below E, unless the property is registered as an exemption.

The energy performance standards changes that came into force in April 2018 are part of a bigger picture of regulations that will affect all rental properties.  Irrespective of the length of tenancy, in April 2020 it became unlawful to rent any property with an existing or continuing tenancy that fails to meet the minimum required energy rating.

The legislation was created to improve the energy efficiency in our building stock. The ratchet is starting to move.

There are acres written about exemptions of this legislation.  But I don’t want to go there.

WHY DOESN’T MEES DELIVER THE NET ZERO EMISSIONS AGENDA?

MEES is another strategy for getting to Net Zero.  My question is do we comply with MEES, whilst trying to work out a Net Zero strategy, or is BREEAM the way to go?

Well, let’s consider this piece by piece.

My name is Kieran Crowe and I am a qualified Building Services Engineer and I am drawn to action.

I like to use provocative language, but don’t let that put you off from the extremely important message I want you to hear.

Let me provide you with a quote:

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
Robert Swan, Author

Now you see where I am coming from, I want to ask: What do we do with all of this energy performance in buildings stuff? And will it achieve Net Zero?

Well, the technical answer is to deal with MEES.  But realistically we are facing a new metric that energy reduction policy will adopt and that is ‘Energy Intensity’. This put simply is the amount of energy a building consumes divided by its floor area i.e. kWh/m².

For more help in achieving Net Zero on your property portfolio, go to lowcarbonalliance.co.uk/net-zero/

IN-USE ENERGY INTENSITY V EPC RATING, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Right now, the Government is in consultation on designing energy efficiency policy around energy intensity alongside the current EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). A start.

EPC was designed to be an indicator of energy performance, a label if you like. However, its rating is now integral to compliance with MEES and it really should not be.

The detail only confuses the situation. A notional performance of a building is not a measure of how it actually performs and we have seen recent studies exposing buildings with good EPC ratings that have in-use performance of buildings with much lower ratings. This just shows that in-use performance should become the preferred method of understanding a building’s actual energy efficiency credentials.

The Government is also taking advice on what is practical and realistic to achieve in respect of a kWh/m² value and one value that is surfacing is 70kWh/m².

Two highly regarded organisations in the built environment, The Better Building Partnership (BBP) and separately the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) both conducted studies on in-use energy v EPC rating.

The results showed that buildings with EPC ratings of B, C, D and E all have energy intensities of between 210kWh/m² – 240kWh/m² and therefore the EPC rating is no indicator of actual performance and carbon emissions.

Given the above, reaching 70kWh/m² is daunting.

SO, WHERE TO NOW?

Without the ‘reality bites’ of in-use energy measurement, the UK will not achieve policy that effectively tackles carbon emissions from buildings.

Read that again.  Without effective measurement of energy use, the UK will simply not achieve any meaningful reduction in carbon emissions from buildings, let alone our need to hit our net zero target.

It will need to be a continuous measurement process. The UK Government already has an in-use measurement tool, the DEC (Display Energy Certificate). However, these are only currently mandatory for public buildings.

Logically, it would be simple for the EPC to be scrapped in favour of a DEC. This would mean a building’s actual energy use would become knowledge. However, more concerning would be the impact on a building’s rating and, as the studies have shown, a B rated building could quite easily become an E.

The Covid crisis gives all of us, Government, developers, occupiers, designers and investors scope to learn and apply the wisdom gained from this period.  To shape spaces, to balance lifestyle; socio-economic and ethical considerations of the new post-pandemic era.  Our very own chance to build back better.

I want to bring about positive and lasting change for our built environment. We have both the ability and the need to change.

It would be the crowning of stupidity if this once in a lifetime opportunity is squandered.