The government may be slow to implement the EU's directive on energy performance of buildings but FM should be seizing the initiative, says Elaine Coles
10 March 2006
In January 2006 energy efficiency moved one step forward with the EU's energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD). Under this legislation, energy efficiency of domestic, commercial and public buildings should increase by up to 20 per cent.
With around 40 per cent of all CO2 emissions in the UK coming from buildings it is not surprising that the pressure is now on FMs to reduce how much energy a building consumes. Poorly-managed buildings can needlessly waste energy and thus incur penalties as a consequence of the EPBD and part L2 of the Building Regulations.
According to recent studies carried out on behalf of the European Insulation Manufacturers' Association (Eurima), the provisions of the directive to develop minimum requirements on the energy performance of new buildings and large existing buildings will only capture about 10 per cent of the overall potential (39 million tonnes). In Eurima's view upgrading the insulation of older buildings would prevent the emission of 460 million tonnes of CO2 annually - more than the entire EU commitments to Kyoto.
However despite the transition into national law only 10 EU states met the EPBD deadline - the UK wasn't among them. Even among the minority of countries that have taken on the directive, several will delay introducing key elements by up to three years - including the requirement to issue energy performance certificates for buildings above a minimum size.
The directive requires that whenever a building is constructed, sold or rented out, a certificate (no older than 10 years) detailing its energy performance must be made available by the owner, to the prospective buyer or tenant. The certificate must include reference values such as current legal standards and benchmarks in order to facilitate comparisons.
Interestingly, it also must include recommendations for cost-effective investments which can be undertaken in the building to improve its energy performance. In addition all buildings, regularly visited by a large number of people or occupied by a public authority, will be required to display prominently its current energy certificate. It will show the performance or rating in a series of bands - 'A' being the most energy efficient.
This rating system and the certificates in general should give FMs a powerful voice in the boardroom when trying to get funding for projects. After all they are not just influenced by regulations but also by the need to reduce operating costs - which can amount to three times the amount of capital needed to buy the building. Add the impact of climate change levies and emissions trading taxes and energy efficiency can become a great deal more important to companies.
Alan Aldridge, executive director at the Energy Systems Trade Association (Esta) believes that despite all the publicity surrounding energy efficiency, it still doesn't figure highly at board level: "The UK simply can't afford to continue with a head-in-the-sand approach. The more pressure that comes from the top to integrate energy efficiency into every aspect of business is the key to achieving economic advantage."
Esta's main focus centres on the demand side energy efficiency of buildings, building services and process services. As a result it considers issues beyond simple energy consumption to those systems and processes that influence the whole life cost of a building. These include maintenance and management costs.
It has played a significant role in the UK Climate Change Programme (CCP) consultation processes and its numerous initiatives such as climate change levy and enhanced capital allowances. Esta firmly believes that CCP represents an excellent opportunity for facilities managers to gain that vital boardroom support for energy and environmental initiatives. In fact it could be the key to moving energy to the top of the board's agenda.
Aldridge says: "To date, UK CO2 targets simply haven't delivered - pessimists would say they've been a disaster in terms of achievement. Hopefully the current climate change review will come forward with more radical policies. At the moment the broad willingness to grasp the energy mettle unfortunately doesn't appear to be there and as long as that's the case it causes uncertainty and confusion in the marketplace."
Aldridge predicts the consequence of this uncertainty will be an unwillingness to invest in energy efficient technologies and services if there is no confidence in long term official strategy and planning.
Certainly investing in systems which help companies comply with the new directive can help to reduce operating costs and increase energy efficiency. Intelligent building control systems are the latest buzzwords. They can monitor everything from electricity to water and gas consumption; automatically generating reports and information when needed. But naturally it requires the investment to reap the benefits.
So facilities managers should be looking at a programme to cost-effectively improve energy performance. It should become a factor in their procurement choices. These energy certificates last for up to 10 years and during that time the energy rating can be reassessed, so it is important that facilities managers put in place a programme of environmental improvements to the property. Not only would it raise its value but it would give the company better environmental credentials and increase its standing with investors.
The concern about energy issues and the need to take positive action is reflected in the growing prominence of the Nemex conference (National Energy Management Exhibition) taking place at the NEC from 16-18 May. The range of technologies, services, products and processes already in or coming into the marketplace demonstrates how far the UK has already embraced energy efficiency into the mainstream of business thinking, irrespective of the speed of government action.
Elaine Coles is head of research at IMS Consulting.
Details of Nemex are at www.nemex-energy.co.uk