Sunday Times of Malta, 27th July 2008

Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and Council on energy efficiency of buildings was adopted on December 16, 2002, and came into force on January 4, 2003.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is considered an important legislative component of the EU’s energy efficiency activities.

The directive is set to promote the improvement of energy performance of buildings with the following requirements to be implemented by member states:

• a methodology to calculate the integrated energy performance of buildings;

• applying minimum requirements on the energy performance of new buildings and large existing buildings undergoing major renovation;

• energy performance certification of buildings;

• regular inspection of boilers and of air-conditioning systems;

• the need for experts and inspectors to certify buildings, drafting recommendations and inspect boilers and air-conditioning systems.

It is the responsibility of each EU member state to choose measures that corresponds best to its particular situations.

January 4, 2006, was the deadline by which the 25 member states had to transpose the directive into national law. Only for the requirements for certifications and inspections, member states were permitted an additional period of three years to apply fully.

The Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs has presented draft legislation entitled ‘Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations’ for public consultation. This is a topical subject, as there is growing awareness that this directive will be implemented as from January 2009, and the consultation process highlighted the need for more information to be provided on the scope of the directive.

This article is limited to the building energy certification aspect of the directive. A building energy certificate, or EPC (Energy Performance Certificate), is similar to the energy label on domestic appliances such as fridges, washing machines, etc. We are accustomed to a scale of A-G on domestic appliances with A-rated appliances being the most efficient and G the least efficient. It is expected that the EPC will have an identical or similar appearance and method of rating.

An EPC will be compulsory for almost all new homes after January 2, 2009. A seller should provide an EPC to prospective buyers or tenants when a home is constructed, sold or rented.

An EPC is based on the characteristics of the major components of the dwelling as well as the construction type and materials, levels of insulation, ventilation and air tightness features, systems for heating and cooling, and the type of lighting.

An EPC is only an indication of the energy performance of a house. Actual energy usage will depend on how the occupants operate the house. In this way the EPC value is similar to the concept of the fuel economy rating (in litres per 100 km or miles per gallon) for a car.

The EPC does not include electricity used for purposes other than heating, lighting, and ventilation.

Since commercial buildings are generally more complex, with a greater variety of systems installed, the calculation procedure is more detailed.

In both instances, the purpose of the EPC is to make the energy performance of a building visible to prospective buyers and tenants, enabling them to take energy performance into consideration in their next purchase or rental.

It is not a question of passing or failing. Unfortunately, the fact that the EPBD also includes the application of minimum requirements for the energy performance of buildings has resulted in confusion between the minimum requirements and the EPC. This should not be the case.

There is already a legal obligation for buildings to be constructed according to minimum requirements, namely the Minimum Requirements for the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations, 2006. In the case of the EPC, the requirement is for the calculation of an energy rating, regardless of the value of the rating. Of course, it is clear that the purpose of the exercise is to create awareness and hence improve the overall energy performance of our buildings.

The inherent value of the EPC is in creating public awareness of the energy performance of our building stock. It should be interesting for the government to consider incentives to developers and property owners who construct or refurbish properties to obtain a high EPC rating.

Mr Abela is a building services engineer with an active interest in energy conservation and environmental issues.