What Are Commercial EPCs?

At first glance a Commercial Energy Performance Certificate looks very similar to a domestic EPC, but underneath they are quite different creatures. Whereas the domestic EPC methodology (RDSAP) makes assumptions based on the Building Regulations deemed to have been applicable at the time of build, the commercial EPC methodology (SBEM) requires the commercial assessor to do a detailed analysis of the building ‘envelope’ – all its many walls, doors, windows, ceilings roofs, floors etc. as well as its heating, lighting, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVAC).

Each area of the building is mapped as an ‘activity zone’ describing to the software what takes place there, allowing the energy characteristics of each zone to be adjusted. Where the zone has mechanical exhaust the assessor must calculate the air-flow in the zone based on the required air-changes for that activity. This varies considerably, depending for instance on whether the zone is a commercial kitchen or a toilet.

Commercial buildings fall into 3 categories (3, 4 & 5) depending on their characteristics and only an assessor qualified to the appropriate level can produce the certificate. This decision-making process requires following a flow-chart, and unless very detailed information is provided by the customer up-front it can sometimes be difficult for a basic-level assessor (Level 3) to know if they are qualified to assess a building until they have surveyed it. More than once an assessor has turned up to do a survey only to find the building has Level 4 characteristics – resulting in a wasted journey, a delay in producing the EPC, a dissatisfied customer and an out-of-pocket assessor!

Typically, simple buildings with natural ventilation might be Level 3, buildings with more sophisticated air-conditioning (as opposed to basic ‘comfort cooling’) can be Level 4 and a few buildings with special ventilation strategies and atria etc. are level 5. However, the latter are usually large enough to employ a building manager who will be well-aware of the requirements.

The EPC rates the building against similar buildings and new ones and each EPC comes with a ‘Recommendations Report’ which says what can be done to improve the energy rating. Some assessors are able to produce the EPC quickly from 3D modelling software such as BuildDesk’s ‘Carbon Checker’ and can easily do ‘what if’ analyses to tell you the savings from proposed improvements,

All commercial premises require an EPC whenever the ownership, lease or the mortgage changes and your solicitor can’t complete the legalities until he has the certificate, which has a nasty habit of making things grind to a halt while an urgent call goes out for an energy assessor.

Contrary to industry folk-lore, the legal requirement is for an EPC to be prepared before the premises are advertised, so the top tip is to book the EPC up-front and take a few minutes to read the recommendations Report when it arrives – a few proposed improvements can often save the new occupant a lot in fuel bills!

Source – Housing Energy Advisor

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