Scotland's Approach to Building Energy Efficiency

Wed 14 Sep 2016

Scotland’s ‘competitor’ to the much publicised Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), due to be introduced in England and Wales in 2018, has been finalised and will be introduced next month. The approach is markedly different to the plans in place for the rest of the UK.

The scheme in summary

In Scotland, building owners who plan to sell or lease space will need to comply with the new regulations for units over 1,000 square metres in size, from 1 September 2016[1].  An energy performance certificate (EPC) is required, as usual.  However, an Action Plan must also be established to identify energy saving opportunities.  Action Plans can be issued by qualified Section 63 Advisors (many EPC assessors are in the process of gaining this additional accreditation) who use approved software to calculate improvements.  The software has been developed to consider the feasibility of seven improvement opportunities.

  • Draught-stripping windows and doors
  • Upgrading lighting controls
  • Adding central timer controls to the heating system
  • Insulating hot water storage
  • Improving lighting
  • Improving insulation
  • Replacing boilers if existing units are older than 15 years

Following completion of the Action Plan the owner can then decide to implement the relevant measures or produce an operational energy rating in the form of a Display Energy Certificate (and maintain this on an annual basis). Owners have 12 months to decide which approach to take and have a further 3.5 years to implement improvements if progression of the Action Plan is chosen as the approach.

Exemptions

It is also important to note that buildings constructed in accordance with a building warrant applied for on or after 4 March 2002 are exempt (for now)[2] – although there is a likelihood that this date will change over time to bring more assets into the scheme.  In many cases, exemption due to date of construction will be clear.  However, this rule has already raised questions.

For example, will a recently refurbished unit located in a building constructed prior to 2002 be exempt?

Consideration will need to be made on a case-by-case basis. The software used to generate EPCs and Action Plans will identify whether the unit meets the exemption criteria or not. As a result, the first part of the process, the EPC assessment, will need to be completed before the requirement for an Action Plan can be confirmed.

The Challenges

The approach, at first glance, seems practical.

Seven sensible improvement measures have been identified that, if feasible, need to be considered for implementation, and the bar has been set at the relatively low level of 2002 building warrant standards.  However, practical challenges remain.

Take the following scenario:

An owner wants to let an old (pre 2002) and large (over 1,000 square metre) office building on a Full Repairing and Insuring (FRI) basis.  The EPC and subsequent Action Plan will be produced.  To continue to comply, the owner will need to produce either a Display Energy Certificate or progress the implementation of the Action Plan.  However, lease structures for most FRI buildings will prevent compliance (as the owner will not have access to data and will not be able to implement improvements). 

To ensure compliance, owners of such buildings will need to ensure lease clauses are in place that require single-let FRI tenants to provide energy performance data to owners, as a minimum.

As a priority, landlords should review their portfolios and develop compliance plans to prevent problems in future.

[1] Units under 1,000 square metres will still need to produce an EPC, but will not be required to progress further.

[2] Transactions that are exempt from requiring an EPC are also exempt from additional action plan requirements.