Energy Assessor

A painless transfer?

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As some of you who regularly read this blog may be aware, as an energy assessor I was trained by the RICS who are my professional institution. I subsequently lodged all my energy assessments under the RICS accreditation scheme – that is until they gave all their assessors one months notice of the closure of their scheme.

20121201-145557.jpgWell that month has now ended and I have transferred to another accreditation scheme, the transfer has been painless, but sadly that had nothing to do with the RICS who have been spectacularly absent throughout the entire episode.

At the outset I had to chase the RICS for confirmation of the scheme closure – not an auspicious start. Since then I have had one notification of a possible new scheme to join (CIBSE) from them and nothing else – no check to see if I had managed to arrange anything – nothing!

On Friday it also transpired that the scheme actually ended at 4pm – not midnight – so part way through the afternoon I found I couldn’t lodge any EPC’s – great! There was a note on the login page – but no one actually would login that way!

However, Lifespan who I use to lodge my assessments were brilliant and helped me out, also my new accreditation body – sterling – were very helpful and efficient. even CIBSE rang to check I was sorted – but not my professional body.

In an age when as Chartered Surveyors we are being asked to comply with more and more rules and regulations by the RICS it’s nice to see that they have our best interests at heart!

Left high and dry?

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20121026-202046.jpgI am a Chartered Surveyor – and proud of it. My membership of the RICS allows me to do my job and satisfy my clients that I have the necessary knowledge and qualifications to do it properly. So why does the RICS make it so difficult for me to consider them my ‘friend’ in business?

Let me explain – a few years ago I undertook the RICS accredited Energy Assessors course to qualify as an RICS accredited energy assessor – this would allow me to prepare EPC’s for my firm and clients and then lodge them. The training was quite intensive and not cheap, but I was proud to be accredited by the RICS as they were considered to be one of the better managed schemes – so perhaps of a better quality?

So all looks rosy – until Friday when I gathered (second hand) that the RICS are going to withdraw their accreditation scheme – so I will have to register with another body. This will possibly entail doing further exams – despite being qualified already, and more importantly if I don’t act quickly, might cause a break in me being able to provide the service.

I picked the information up from an RICS forum, from other equally confused assessors. I have subsequently spoken to the RICS by telephone and they have confirmed the news, and told me the letters are in the ‘process of going out’ – have they not heard of email? I have however been told officially by the software provider I use for EPC calculations and lodgment (Lifespan) and have also received an email from an alternative accreditation scheme (Elmhurst Energy) offering a free transfer.

So why if they can all contact me so quickly and efficiently, cant the RICS (who are supposed to look after my interests for me?)

Oh, and the notice that the RICS has given its members? Five weeks (and that is for the ones that have heard officially – I still haven’t). So am I to believe that this decision was only taken a few days ago – I think not!

Now do you see my issue with the RICS?

Is it really that difficult to pass legislation?

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As a profession we have a vested interest in environmental matters, whether or not ‘green buildings’ are capable of attracting higher values is up for debate (see my colleague Tim Garratt’s recent research). But, one thing we can do is ensure purchasers and tenants of commercial property at least have an idea of how energy-efficient their buildings are. Enter the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), one of our industries most maligned pieces of paper!

How green is your building?

The residential market has been more EPC savvy than the commercial world for a while, the law has required all residential agents details to have the EPC graph displayed (and consequently the public have come accustomed to it). The Government however in their infinite wisdom decided that the commercial property market wasn’t ready for this level of enforcement (despite it being far smaller than the residential market) and consequently the requirements for EPC’s on Commercial property were ‘wishy washy’ at best, and easy to ignore at worst.

The upshot of this was that EPC’s are not generally prepared before marketing (which they should be) and tend to be prepared just as the property is in lawyers hands – once the deal has been agreed. Consequently the property decision has been taken without any view to the energy efficiency of the building – no wonder green buildings currently show no premium value over ‘ordinary’ buildings!

However, finally last year the Government announced their proposals to bring the Commercial Property world in line with the Residential market – through their proposals for the amendments to the Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 – otherwise known as the EPD regulations.

But, (and there is always a ‘but’), the regulations were supposed to come into force in June 2011, but they were delayed until October 2011 – and now we are being told that they will be delayed until April 2012! We were only told this on Friday by the CLG, so most agents are already in the process of preparing for the changes, so why the delay of almost 12 months in total?

No one really knows, according to the CLG the proposals are still the same as they were at the start. What is clear is that the current situation will prevail until Easter 2012 at which point there will probably be a mad rush to comply by agents who no doubt currently feel ‘relieved’ that they don’t have to get their EPC’s quite yet!

I am still hoping that my work load on EPC’s (I am an assessor) will increase over the next 6 months as people get ready for the change (assuming it is not delayed again), but I am not holding my breath!

So thanks CLG for again being a great help on this!

The ‘joy’ of online systems!

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One of my roles at work is as an energy assessor – it is through my training for this role that I have developed my interest in the ‘green agenda’. I am qualified under the RICS who are my professional body as a Chartered Surveyor.

So far so good – the system I have to use to enter my data for energy assessments is an online one, called Lifespan SBEM – it is quite user-friendly and generally works well. As with all online systems it has its moments. Sometimes I have to log out and back in as it will freeze, but this is not a major issue, just an annoyance.

However, today I was planning to do a lot of inputting to get a number of EPC’s sorted for Monday – this is one of the joys of online systems – you can work from anywhere that has access to the web. So up early this morning to watch the Grand Prix and input data.

Lifespan SBEM is working fine today as a website, but, and here is the problem as I see it with lots of on-line systems, it needs to link to another site (Landmark) to get its address information. Also without this address information (and unique address code) Lifespan won’t allow me to start inputting a new job.

So I am ready to go but can’t. And being a Sunday no one is available at Landmark or Lifespan to tell me when the database will be back on-line to allow me to work!

Surely if you are providing a system that can be accessed 24/7 you should provide support 24/7?

This is going to be a long day (and night if the database only comes back tonight). And if it’s not back until tomorrow expect me to be extra grumpy at work tomorrow!