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Europe tightens rules on energy performance

The European Union has recently agreed amendments to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), the so-called “EPBD recast”, and the changes are likely to strengthen the directive significantly. So what should consultants and contractors prepare themselves for?

Among the most significant of the changes are the plans to remove the 1,000 sq m threshold on major refurbishments, vastly increasing the scope of the Directive in the process.

Minimum energy performance requirements are to be set for “technical building systems”, such as boilers and air conditioning units, and the use of smart metering will be encouraged. The member states of the Europan Union will introduce financial measures to encourage energy efficiency.

Permanent display

Energy Performance Certificates will have to be permanently displayed in all buildings, commercial and public, of 500 sq m visited by the public. For public sector buildings, this limit will fall to 250 sq m in 2015.

There will also be a requirement to inform building tenants of the refurbishment improvements options. The Directive, which was agreed last month, is likely to be part of UK law by October, with a voluntary EU certification scheme expected next year.

The existing legislation will be repealed by 2012. The overall target of the measures is to make all new buildings “nearly zero energy” by 31 December 2020.

The public sector is to be used as an exemplar and all buildings there are to be near-zero energy by the end of 2018. By the end of 2012, the EU will publish first triennial report on progress on the number of “nearly-zero” energy buildings.

But what exactly is a nearly zero energy building? The recast defines such constructions as: “A building that has a very high energy performance… The nearly zero or very low amount of energy should be covered to a very significant extent from renewable sources provided on site or nearby.”

The EPCs of buildings

will play a central role in the process, giving recommendations on improvements alongside the rating. The certificates will have to give information on the cost-effectiveness of suggested improvements by including “cost-optimal” recommendations.

In this context, cost-optimal means the energy performance level that leads to the lowest cost during the estimated economic life cycle of the building.

The European Commission is to establish a comparative framework for calculating cost-optimal levels of minimum energy performance by June 2011.

The impact of the proposed changes in the recast is estimated to equate to a further 5-6 per cent reduction of the energy used across the EU by 2020.

This might not sound like much but is equal to the current energy consumption in Belgium and Romania.

Andrew Brister is a freelance journalist