Can You Do Magic EPCs?

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CAN YOU DO MAGIC EPCs?

29 March 2017    Updated 4 & 11 April 2017

Landlords who have F or G rated properties face them being unlettable next year unless they spend some serious money on improving their ratings, but it seems they are finding an alternative solution which is only likely to gain in popularity in coming months.

What’s the solution?  Simple!  Just get an assessor who has magic powers over energy ratings!

You might hope we had seen the last of people with these sorts of powers in our industry, but sadly it seems it’s going on now, and I can say that because I’ve just become aware of an apparent case relating to a property I assessed last year.

Early 1970s detached industrial unit with uninsulated cavity walls, uninsulated asbestos profile roof and mostly oil heating; two large workshops with vehicle doors, some modest storage, a trade counter area, a small office with unfanned electric heaters, toilets with no heating so fanned elec heating assumed.  Two single glazed windows, mostly T8 lighting.

As you would expect, it got a G rating.  That proved to be a problem for the owner-occupier who was planning to sell the building to his pension scheme, I suspect to raise some cash for his business.  And of course the outfit financing the deal wouldn’t touch anything with an F or G rating.

To help him out I modelled for him in SBEM the stuff he hoped would do the trick – new double glazed windows, a bit more insulation! – followed by the only thing that was going to get him an E rating – air source heat pumps.

I subsequently had a call from an aircon outfit who had been asked to quote, so I know he was following up on what I told him.  I don’t know what they quoted, but if they were using anything like decent equipment it could have been approaching £10,000.

I haven’t been asked to do a post-install update, so I assumed he hadn’t gone ahead, but out of curiosity I just took a look on the register, and found he had obtained another EPC.  I was right, he hadn’t gone ahead with the heat pumps – oil was still shown as the main heating fuel.  But the rating had magically gone down about 70 points – to an E!  Wow!  Good trick!

If you’re stuck for something for tea it might be worth checking with the assessor who did that one to see if he can produce rabbits from hats as well!

OK, to be serious, in common with most commercial assessors, I know how this trick is likely to have been achieved, but I wouldn’t be doing NDEAs any favours by spelling it out on a publicly accessible forum.

With the introduction of the Minimum Energy Standards just a year away, in April 2018, it seems increasingly certain that a good many landlords may be facing big bills to ensure their properties comply with the regulations.

So it’s not surprising that building owners may be keen to find cheap ways to beat 2018 problems.  Sadly it seems likely that we will see more magic EPCs being lodged in the next year.

I can report this to the accreditation body, though it’s been taken over since then so I’m not sure how much good that will do.  But I’ll make the effort and see what happens.

Have you come across this sort of thing?  If so let me know by emailing terrywardle@energyassessormagazine.com  Please include your details but let me know if you would prefer not to have your name used if I publish your information

Update 4 April 2017

In response to this blog, Robin sent the feedback below:

I remember doing my training with Elmhurst back in 2007- 5 of us sat around measuring up and inputting the same example building… and all getting different results based on our experience/knowledge/assumptions.

I also do a lot of consultancy work with landlords on hitting targets (both Domestic and Non Domestic) plus having been on a few CPDs picked up a few tips from the trainers highlighting all the opportunities in SBEM which are perfectly acceptable under the Methodology and Code of Conduct.

I also find a lot of others highlighting ridiculously expensive scenarios to achieve an E with little or no financial reward/return for doing so. I’m a big fan of renewable energy which I believe is one of the tickets for a lot of clients to achieve the E ratings while investing in the industry and their stock.

I also see opportunities for taking out poor performing kit- and using the SBEM Defaults/worst case which in essence can make buildings work better- and use less energy-for example. rather than heating an entire warehouse with an Oil Space Heater for one person, use a portable electric heater for that one person. (I know my scenario doesn’t take into account the minimum storage temp for the items being stored… but then again should it?)

I think I would aim your magic EPCs as a “Hate the Game not the Player” style scenario, where the system (methodology combined with accreditation/trading standards) is the problem- not the person number crunching? Also I bet I can guess which accreditation scheme that other assessor was trained under.

Update 11 April 2017

In response to this blog, Martyn sent the feedback below:

Exactly the same thing happened to me.  An 80s warehouse with toilets.  The landlord had put a new roof on but had not replaced the lights in the warehouse, leaving that to the incoming tenant.

As the Conventions state, I had to default to tungsten, which resulted in a low G.  I had a bit of a heated exchange with the landlord but said that unless he put new lights in there was nothing I could do except redo the EPC when new lighting was fitted.

Lo and behold, a week later another EPC appeared on the register with a D rating with the recommendation that the T8 lights were replaced with T5 conversions.  I went back to the building to look through the windows and, yes, you guessed it, still no lights.

Must be magic.

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