The EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) will have far-reaching implications for the owners, operators and developers of all buildings in the UK (both domestic and non-domestic) and will play a vital role in delivering the Energy White Paper’s energy efficiency objectives.

The EPBD provides a major opportunity to achieve the step-change in buildings-related energy efficiency. However, practical implementation of the Directive will be very demanding since all national legislation must be in place by 4th January 2006.

Key provisions of the Directive are:

  • minimum requirements for the energy performance of all new buildings
  • minimum requirements for the energy performance of large existing buildings subject to major renovation
  • energy certification of all buildings (with frequently visited buildings providing public services being required to prominently display the energy certificate)
  • regular mandatory inspection of boilers and air conditioning systems in buildings.

    The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) is taking the lead in implementing the directive, since it has responsibility for most of the legislation that can be used to transpose it into law.

    To help the Government implement the Directive, a high-level working group was established in 2003 by over 22 key professional bodies and trade associations (including RIBA, RICS, CIBSE, The Energy Institute, BCO, BRC, ACE, ESTA, etc) forming the Directive Implementation Advisory Group (DIAG).

    A key aim is to avoid the problems previously encountered by the poorly planned introduction of other EU regulations (e.g. the Ozone Depleting Substance Regulations which resulted in the fridge mountain fiasco).

    Setting energy performance requirements

    The Energy White Paper not only commits government to transpose the EPBD into law by the end of 2005 but also (within the same timescale) to implement the next major revision of part L of the building regulations. A key issue is the EPBD requirement that whenever a building with a total useful floor area of over 1000m2 undergoes major renovation, its energy performance is upgraded to incorporate all cost effective energy efficiency measures.

    The Directive also requires that all new buildings should meet minimum energy performance requirements. For those with a useful floor area over 1000m2 governments must ensure that, before construction starts, formal consideration is given to the following alternative systems for heating:

  • CHP
  • District or block heating or cooling
  • Heat pumps
  • Decentralised energy supply systems based upon renewable energy.

    Energy performance certificates

    The EPBD 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.

    In order to facilitate comparisons between buildings, the energy performance certificate must include reference values such as current legal standards and benchmarks. It also must include recommendations for the cost effective investments which can be undertaken in the building, and which will improve its energy performance.

    All buildings, either occupied by a public authority, or regularly visited by a large number of people, must display in a prominent place clearly visible to the public its current energy certificate.

    In addition a range of recommended and current indoor temperatures and, when appropriate, other relevant climatic factors may also be clearly displayed. This requirement applies only to buildings with a total useful floor area over 1000m2.

    The introduction of building energy certification is likely to have a profound effect on the commercial property sector. No organisation which has any concern about brand equity, or its corporate social responsibility standing is going to want to occupy a poorly rated building – particularly if environmental reporting or pension disclosure requirements result in naming and shaming.

    Plant inspection

    The EPBD provides Member States with two options for reducing the energy consumption of boilers. The first option is to lay down the necessary measures to establish a regular inspection of boilers fired by non-renewable liquid or solid fuel of an effective rated output over 20kW.

    The second option – most likely to be pursued in the UK – is for governments to ensure that there is adequate provision of advice to users on the replacement of the boilers, other modifications to the heating system and on alternative solutions, which may include assessment of the efficiency and appropriate size of the boiler.

    In order to reduce energy consumption of air conditioning systems, governments must establish regular inspections of all air conditioning plant with an effective rated output of more than 12 kW. Such an inspection must include an assessment of the efficiency and sizing of the air conditioning, compared to the cooling requirements of the building. Appropriate advice must be provided to users on possible improvements or replacements, and on alternative solutions.

    Independent Experts

    EU Member States must ensure that certification of buildings, the drafting of the accompanying recommendations and the inspection of boilers and air conditioning systems are carried out in an independent manner. This must be by qualified and/or accredited experts. These can operate as sole traders or be employed by public or private bodies.

    If a Member State can demonstrate that there are an insufficient number of qualified or accredited experts anywhere within the European Union to implement fully the provisions associated with building certification (or plant inspection), they may delay introduction for up to three years. If they wish to cause this delay, governments must justify this to the Commission together with a schedule, detailing precisely when they do plan to fully implement the Directive.

    UK proposals for implementation

    During 2004 ODPM undertook a major consultation regarding the government’s proposals for amending Part L of the Building Regulations and implementing the EPBD. The main implications of the proposed changes are:

  • introduction of building energy labelling
  • additional requirements when refurbishing buildings (likely to apply to all building work requiring submission to Building Control rather than the 1000m2 EPBD threshold)
  • encouragement to consider low and zero carbon systems during design
  • introduction of mandatory new build pressure testing
  • greater emphasis on the avoidance of solar overheating
  • will require a 25-27% reduction in CO2 emissions compared with Part L 2002.


    The Directive provides a significant and realistic opportunity to substantially reduce energy use in buildings. Major issues remain to be resolved – including those associated with delivering the training, qualifications and the quality assurance requirements for the independent experts undertaking building certification and plant inspection.

    At a time of increasing corporate social responsibility, the Directive will deliver significant benefits by ensuring that major organisations invest in cost effective energy efficiency measures with building purchasers and tenants likely to become increasingly concerned about brand equity and/or their CSR reputation.

    Furthermore, the EPBD will introduce an additional requirement into the property transaction process. The EPBD is also likely to have a major impact on vendor/purchaser and tenant/landlord relationships by introducing as it does, a new issue for negotiation.

    The full text of the EPBD and other information may be downloaded from the following website DIAG


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